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Toastmasters | Part 1: What Exactly is Toastmasters?

By Coach Delisa Deavenport, MBA, CPC

My personal elevator speech would go something like this; “Toastmasters is a 96-year-old non-profit with clubs around the world. In a unique forum setting, members learn communication, leadership and presentation skills in a peer-to-peer environment. What follows is each member over a short amount of time, is confidence, professionalism and an effective presence about the member that exhumes a sense of personal direction in life.” This was my personal experience. Toastmasters is for anyone who wants to better themselves.

Larry Deavenport presents his ‘ice-breaker’ speech

The formal explanation is that “Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. The organization’s mission is to empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. The club’s mission is to provide a supportive and positive experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.” The name “Toastmasters” comes from the person who gives the toast at events, but this is certainly not the aim of Toastmasters. What does a Toastmaster meeting look like?

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The value of Toastmasters is exhaustive. Annual dues run anywhere from $90 to $130 with most clubs averaging about $110. International dues of $90 a year are included in this fee. Clubs then decide how much the local level dues are. The vast majority of clubs meet twice a month for 90 minutes with many clubs meeting weekly. This basically boils down to an average of less than $5 a meeting. I do not know of a more valuable, proven method of personal development that is recognized around the world among employers than Toastmasters.

Toastmasters International has a detailed, well-thought-out, self-paced curriculum that each member follows. Memberships are transferable from club to club and you keep your progress in the curriculum if you decide to take a break or stop involvement at any time. Have I caught your attention? I was sold on “confidence” when I first became interested five years ago and I have gained so much more personal development than I had ever anticipated.

Each meeting and member role in a Toastmasters meeting is purposeful. Usually, one to three members give a short 5-minute speech. The meeting has several other meeting roles as well. Remember, this program is self-paced. You are never forced to do a role you are not comfortable with. Members sign up in advance, for the position they want to fill. Everything is timed, therefore, one of the meeting roles is a timer. The timer times every aspect of the meeting beginning with the meeting itself. There is a Grammarian that carefully reviews each member’s use of grammar, not just the speaker, but EVERY member. There is a Wordmaster who introduces a new word for the meeting and keeps a tally of which members use the word during the meeting. The ah counter keeps track of members who use filler words like so, and, um, and ah among others. Some clubs have a Jokemaster and/or a Quotemaster. The Speech Evaluator does just that – evaluates the speech based on the speech’s objectives and the parts of speaking the member has learned so far in their Toastmaster experience. The General Evaluator evaluates the speech evaluators and the meeting in general. The Table Topics masters provide 3 or more members with questions that are answered off-the-cuff to instill good communication in real-life situations, those speeches we do not have time to prepare for. Many clubs choose the best speaker, evaluator, and table topic speaker and give them a ribbon or certificate and, thus, have a vote counter as one of the meeting roles. The meetings usually have themes and the environment is one of complete professional encouragement. No one is put down or raked over the coals. It is not an environment to fear. It is purposefully and an environment where one can flourish. 

The Positive Professionals Toastmasters club in Port Huron, MI is having an event called, A Taste of Toastmasters, on November 17, 2019, from 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM in the Sperry 2nd Floor Dinnerhouse. The event is free and there is a pizza – salad bar included. Sit back, eat pizza and feel free to get yourself an adult beverage at the Dinnerhouse bar. Bring a date and enjoy a Sunday afternoon on us. 

   

Delisa Deavenport is the founder of Healthy Evolutions, LLC, a coaching company that focuses on learning quieting techniques to find your direction, purpose and joy.

Coach Delisa shares her message to “Find Your Direction in Your Quiet” and authored a book by the same title, published in March 2019. She describes her life with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and how she finally learned to manage her anxiety, quit drinking and find joy and purpose. She is currently writing a book titled “One Man’s Courage, One Mother’s Strength”, the story of fighting for her son’s survival from alcohol, malnutrition, dehydration over a two-year period stunning the medical profession with his complete recovery.

Before devoting her life’s work to coaching and public speaking, Delisa worked in the nonprofit finance world after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Walsh College and her MBA in Leadership from Argosy University. She is an active member of Toastmasters, a certified speaker and Legacy instructor from the Ziglar Corporation, a certified coach from the Professional Coach Academy and her proudest accomplishment – “granny’ to a precious little boy named DJ.

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