What happens when you start at Toastmasters?
Anyone who likes can come to meetings and there is no requirement to become a member. Visitors can participate in all activities and are encouraged to do so but on the other hand no one is forced to. One can start out simply as part of the audience.
Having said that, there are advantages in membership. Apart from access to Toastmasters huge selection of resources and the monthly Toastmasters’ magazine, members are entered into a program where they experience, train and practice all aspects of public speaking as well as business procedures. At the end of the first two programs, which usually run parallel, the member is awarded with “Competent Communicator” (CC) and “Competent Leader” (CL). Completing these two typically takes one to two years.
Aspects of “Competent Communicator”
The Ice breaker
This is the first prepared speech done. In it, the speaker tells his own story – introduces himself to the club. Being about oneself, the subject is well known and therefore not too difficult. Like most speeches in Toastmasters it should go for 4-7 minutes.
Organise your speech
This second speech is about selecting a topic, making an outline and developing an opening, body and conclusion.
Get to the point
Here you look at general and specific purposes and increasing confidence.
How to say it
What makes a speech interesting and worth listening to is determined by how it is said. This assignment deals with word use, jargon and correct English.
Your body speaks
Eye contact, facial expressions and body language are the next task focussed on.
Here the speaker puts emphasis on posture, breathing, being expressive, the effects of silence and the value of rehearsal.
Research your topic
This speech concentrates on passing on correct and well researched information.
Get comfortable with visual aids
Choosing and using visual aids are a task that needs practice but can add a whole lot to a speech.
Persuade with power
With speech nine, it is the speaker’s task to persuade his listeners to adopt his viewpoint or idea and to get them to take some sort of action.
Inspire your audience
At this stage, the speaker has had enough experience to speak a bit longer so speech ten should last 8-10 minutes. Here the focus is connecting with the audience to inspire them sufficiently, for them to “change status quo”.
The Innisfail Toastmasters Club believes that learning needs to be fun and that skills associated with public speaking develop most easily and naturally when practised in a warm, friendly supportive environment. With the support of Club members the fear of public speaking can be tamed.
Toastmasters meetings follow a prepared programme that includes a variety of segments designed to stretch and enhance your communication skills in different situations.
Members are given various roles or duties to undertake during the course of the meeting to encourage maximum participation and interaction. Some of the roles and activities you may encounter would be:
Toastmaster of the Meeting
One person acts as a chairman for the meeting which is really like being a Master of Ceremonies. He/she introduces each speaker of the evening and keeps the programme flowing.
Word of the Evening
One person at the meeting will have prepared a word or saying that is explained. Other members are encouraged to use this word throughout the evening.
Members receive manuals that outline different assignments or speeches they can tackle and they receive awards at the completion of every ten speeches. At each meeting one or two people will deliver prepared speeches endeavouring to practice certain aspects of public speaking. This can be preparation of a speech, body language, keeping eye contact, effective introductions etc.
Toastmasters is known for evaluating; each speech and indeed every aspect of the meeting is evaluated by other members. Evaluations help us learn and improve through positively acknowledging the efforts of speakers, constructively give feedback as to what has worked well and what could be improved and encouragement. We try to give more positive than negative feedback.
This is a session designed to sharpen peoples’ ability to speak in public without time for preparation. Topics are given to members who attempt to speak for between 1 – 2 minutes. The aim is to present your talk in the format of a speech and respond appropriately to the topic in a manner that is also engaging to the audience.
One person is allocated to listen acutely and monitor whether speakers are using ‘nonsense’ fillers, like ‘um’, ‘ah’, ’so’, ‘you know’, ‘OK’, ‘really’, … the sorts of words and phrases that we often use to disguise our nervousness or discomfort with pauses or silence, or inability to think of something more appropriate. At the end of the meeting this person will give a tally of how speakers fared.
Another person will be the grammarian for the night and their task is to present and expand upon a word, phrase or point of grammar. The grammarian also notes speakers’ use of grammar throughout the evening and comments upon excellent usage and points for improvement.
Speeches at a Toastmasters’ meeting are timed and one person is assigned give light signals to keep speakers on time.
We don’t often think of listening as a part of public speaking but to be able to reply to something, we must first have listened. Therefore at the end of a meeting the Listening Critic will ask questions about what has been said to see if people have been listening.