Q & A

Questions and Answers

An Introduction To Toastmasters

Why is Communication So Important?

A vital golden thread.  Before anything is done, much is written. Before a word is written, many are spoken – to inform, to persuade, to motivate. We all know this. We are used to it in business, finance, industry – everywhere!

We speak to be understood, and to get things done. If we want others to do things, we have to talk them into agreement with us. Don’t think that all the leaders are at the top. There are leaders getting things done at every level. Are you one of them?

If you are, you must be bound to those you influence by a vital golden thread – effective verbal communication!

Why Do We Need to Communicate?

Almost from birth we hear. Very early in life we can speak. Does this mean that we can communicate? Of course not! Communication is the transfer of ideas intact from one mind to another. Daily mistakes should show us how far we fall short of that ideal.

You have heard the phrase “a born leader”. Does that person exist? Again, no!

We study our professions, working hard to qualify ourselves. Yet we forget that equally we must study communication and leadership. When we realise this, what can we do to improve ourselves?

Some people attend courses, or set them up for their staff. Valuable as they may be, they have grave disadvantages. In their brief duration, too much is offered. The mind can’t take it all in. As soon as they are over students begin, all too rapidly, to forget. That is why so many people, and companies looking for a training medium, turn to the idea of the Toastmasters Club.

What Is A Toastmasters Club?

It’s a group of between 20 and 40 people, affiliated to Toastmasters International, which meets regularly to practice and improve listening and speaking abilities. It operates on the twin principles of “learning by DOING” and “learning in moments of ENJOYMENT” There are no teachers in Toastmasters Clubs. Members learn together, helping each other on the way.

The movement is not new. It started in America in 1924 . From humble beginnings, it has spread out to serve over 60 countries in the Western World. Of its more than 10 000 clubs, more than 120 (the number grows month by month) are at your service in Southern Africa.

Who Form Clubs?

People do. Often they are “community” clubs. Very frequently, they are formed by companies keen to help employees progress, or by professional institutes concerned to aid their members in this vital field. Sometimes a company will prefer to encourage employees to join local “community” clubs, in order to enjoy the benefits of wider and more varied association. Some companies ­notably, our largest banks – are so keen that they refund member­ship dues for their staff.

What Kind Of People Belong?

All kinds – which helps to make the clubs interesting, of course. Most members are seeking to rise in their professions. They are aiming for management posts (or higher ones), or need greater skills in staff supervision or negotiating with clients.

With the growing advancement of women in the professions, more and more clubs are inviting women as members. Toastmasters has always is encouraged clubs to open their rolls to members of all race groups, even during the dark days of apatheid.

Some clubs do “specialise”. They may restrict membership to people in a particular profession, organisation or company. As with all else in Toastmasters it is for the members to decide what they want to do.

When, And How Often, Do Clubs Meet?

Again, it’s up to the members. There are clubs for all needs. Some enjoy the supportive warmth of dinner together. Some find it easier to meet a couple of hours after work, so that members can get home early. Some meet at lunchtime in office premises.

In America, the breakfast club is popular. Members beat the rush hour, enjoy a meeting, and then go to work. There are none like this in Africa yet – but, if the need arises then so will the club.

Members decide on frequency according to their need to make progress and with the length of the meeting in mind. Lunch and breakfast clubs usually meet weekly. Evening clubs meet twice a month. A few meet only once.

What Do People Gain From Membership?

Though you are learning public speaking in Toastmasters, this is only one of the benefits, one not needed by everyone. Increased confidence, and the personality development that comes with that, are more important to most people.

Members develop their skills along two main paths. One is that of impromptu speaking (Table Topics) and the other prepared speaking (the “Communication and Leadership” programme).’

Through “evaluation” they learn to listen well; also to criticise constructively and acceptably (vital to those who guide and motivate staff!) The evaluations they receive guide their progress on sound lines.

In turn, members lead different parts of each meeting. In this way they get practice and learn procedural rules. Workshops led by the more experienced help all to develop in this field, as they do in many others.

Finally people gain the satisfaction which comes from BELONGING and from CONTRIBUTING to the group. As they acquire experience they enjoy helping those who are following them along the path to greater effectiveness and surprisingly learn more themselves.

What Does All This Cost?

Not much. considering the benefits. Toastmasters is a non-profit body. Apart from the small. highly skilled. staff at its World Head­quarters in Mission Viejo, California – which services clubs, engages in continual research and produces the excellent literature with which Toastmasters work – it has no paid employees.

This helps cut costs. A club subscription which covers the international membership educational materials and local administration costs is usually much less than that which would be charged by any social club of any standing. In fact the average half yearly dues are well below the cost of one good night on the town! Meal costs. should a club meet over lunch or dinner are of course extra, but are kept moderate.

For the actual costs see The Toastmasters Programme.

How Do People Join Clubs?

First they find them of course!  Most clubs make themselves known locally one way or another. There is contact information on the home page. If you have a problem, go to the World Headquarters using the link and look for the nearest club to you.

Toastmasters respect the old saying “seeing is believing”. A club will welcome you as a guest. to watch what goes on. You needn’t participate In the meeting if you don’t wish to. Apart from paying any meal costs you incur no obligation. Just give a few days’ warning of your intended arrival so that a place can be provided for you, and so that you can be advised of any membership rules the club may have.

If you are a company administrator and wish to assess the Toastmasters training programme you will be particularly welcome. Ask the club to put you in touch with the District Director or a member of his team so that you can gain a broader perspective from the most experienced people available.