Frequently Asked Questions
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational corporation headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. Its mission is to improve communication and leadership skills of its members and in general. Mainly, this works out to “improving public speaking skills” but there is also a potential leadership and management aspect to the organization if you aspire to reach that level.
When you join Toastmasters you receive a basic speaking manual with ten speech projects. Each project calls on you to prepare a speech on a subject of your own choosing but using certain speaking principles. Each manual project lists the objectives for that speech and includes a written checklist for your evaluator to use when evaluating the speech. Thus, if you’re scheduled to speak at a meeting, you generally pull out your manual a week or two in advance and put together a speech on whatever you like but paying attention to your goals and objectives for that speech. Then, when you go to the meeting, you hand your manual to your evaluator and that person makes written comments on the checklist while you speak. At the end of the meeting, that person (your evaluator) will rise to give oral commentary as well. The purpose of the extensive preparation and commentary is to show you what you’re doing well, what you need to work on, and driving these lessons home so you’re constantly improving.
Yes. This is called “dual membership” even if you belong to more than two clubs. When you join the second club, of course, you don’t need to pay the New Member fee because you don’t need a second set of starter materials. You will, however, have to pay International Fees.
A member of the club assigned to be Topics Master will prepare a few impromptu topics and call on members (or guests, if they’ve given assent in advance to being called on) to stand up and speak on the topic. Topics might include current events (e.g. “What would you do about Haitian boat people if you were President?”) or philosophy (“If you had no shoes and met a man who had no feet, how would you feel?”) or the wacky (“Reach into this bag. Pull an item out. Tell us about it.”).
Speeches have time limits (e.g. 5 – 7 minutes), Table Topics have time limits (1-2 minutes, usually) and evaluations have time limits (2-3 minutes, usually). This is in order to drive home the point that a good speaker makes effective use of the time allotted and does not keep going and going and going until the audience is bored. In the real world, quite often there are practical limits on how long a meeting can or should go; by setting time limits on speeches and presentations, participants learn brevity and time management and the club meeting itself can be expected to end on schedule.
Time limits are rarely enforced to the letter. In only a few situations will you find yourself cut off if you go too long, and that’s up to the individual club.
At Seymour Speakers we use timing flags to warn the speakers of the advance of time. All speeches and presentations have a time limit expressed as an interval, e.g. 5 to 7 minutes. A green flag would be shown at 5 minutes, yellow at 6, and red at 7. In Table Topics, the flags would go 1, 1.5, and 2 minutes respectively. When the green light comes on, you’ve at least spoken enough, though you need not finish right away, and when the yellow light comes on, you should begin wrapping up. If you’re not done by the time the red light comes on, you should finish as soon as possible without mangling the ending of your speech.
The only times you’re actually *penalized* for going over or under time is in speaking competition; in speech contests you must remain within the interval or be disqualified.
The format varies slightly from club to club, but at Seymour Speakers our agenda typically follows this:
- Sergeant at arms starts the meeting and introduces the chair
- The chair of the meeting presides over the program that day and explains the meeting as it goes along
- The timer and grammarian explain their roles.
- The Toastmaster conducts the first part of the meeting, also called the “formal part” of the meeting. The Toastmaster delivers a toast, and introduced the speakers who have prepared speeches, and their evaluators.
- Oral and written evaluations are given of the speakers
- A 5-minute break allows for networking and socializing.
- The second half of the meeting is about impromptu speaking, and is when Table Topics occurs.
- The Table Topics Master asks the group a question, and then calls on volunteers to come up and speak on the topic for 1-2 minutes.
- Table Topics are evaluated by the Table Topics evaluator.
- Reports from other evaluation personnel, such as speech timer, grammarian, “ah” counter, wordmaster, and general evaluator.
- Awards are given out for “most improved table topics”, “best table topics”, “best speaker” and “best evaluator.
Our meeting typically lasts 80 minutes.
The Evaluation program is the third of the three main parts to the meeting. All prepared speakers, should have their speaking manuals with them and will have passed them on to the evaluators beforehand. During the speech, and after, each person’s evaluator should make written notes and furthermore, plan what to say during the two to three minute oral evaluation. Evaluation is tough to do well because it requires an evaluator to do more than say “here’s what you did wrong.” A good evaluator will say “here’s what you did well, and here’s why doing that was good, and here are some things you might want to work on for your next speech, and here’s how you might work on them.” It’s important to remember that the evaluator is just one point of view, although one that has focused in on your speech closely. Other members of the audience can and should give you written or spoken comments on aspects of your speech they feel important.
You are welcome at any of our meetings as a guest! Please contact us in advance so we can anticipate your arrival. After 3 “guest appearances”, however, we will encourage you to become a member so you can participate in prepared roles.