Park City Toastmasters
What Happens at Meetings?
The format varies slightly from club to club, but the basics include:
* introduction of the Toastmaster of the Meeting and its theme, who presides over the program that day and explains the meeting as it goes along
* prepared speeches from members (of which more below)
* impromptu speeches from members (also known as Table Topics, of which more below)
* oral evaluations of the prepared speeches (of which more below)
* reports from other evaluation personnel, such as speech timer, grammarian, “ah” counter
What is a prepared speech?
The Toastmasters education program, called Pathways, offers eleven different paths to choose from. Within each path, members deliver a number of speeches usually of 5 to 7 minutes in length but occasionally up to 20 minutes. Although the topic is almost always of the members choosing, each speech will focus on mastering fundamentals, increasing your knowledge in communication and leadership techniques, or building certain skills.
What is Table Topics?
Table Topics is fun! It’s also terrifying. Basically, it calls on you, the guest or member, to present a one to two-minute impromptu speech on a subject not known to you until the moment you get up to speak! A member of the club assigned to be Topicsmaster will prepare a few impromptu topics and call on members (or guests, if they’ve given consent 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.”).
What is an Evaluation?
The Evaluation program is the third of the three main parts to the meeting. During the speech, and after, each person’s evaluator should make written notes and 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, 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 that they feel are important.
Why the emphasis on time limits?
As noted above, speeches have time limits, 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 can be expected to end on schedule.
Why all this structure to the meeting?
If meetings sound complicated, we’re sorry. Meetings generally are not complicated once you get used to the timing devices and the different roles members of the group fill. Since the average club is expected to have 20 or more members, you need a lot of roles in order to involve everyone. And, since meeting assignments vary from meeting to meeting, everyone gets practice doing everything over the course of several meetings. One meeting, you’ll give a speech; the next, you might be timer; the next, you might be the Toastmaster of the Meeting, running the whole show. It keeps you flexible and it keeps you from having to prepare a speech every meeting, which would get old quickly.
I’m scared to death of speaking. Why should I join Toastmasters?
EVERYONE is afraid of speaking. In poll after poll, “public speaking” comes up as more feared than “death.” Public speaking is the nation’s #1 fear. You are no different. Even if you think you’re really good at speaking, there will come a time when your palms sweat and you freeze before an audience. Toastmasters can help with that. Remember that EVERYONE in a Toastmasters club is there because at some point they realized they needed help communicating and speaking before audiences. Almost everyone will remember how wretched they felt when they gave their first speech. You may be startled to find out how supportive a Toastmasters club really can be. If you’re aware how nervous you are but aren’t convinced that you should do anything about it, stop and think what skill is more important than any other when it comes to getting and keeping a good job? Think you’re already an excellent speaker? People who think they’re really good sometimes come into Toastmasters and find out how unstructured and sloppy they really are. Being comfortable doesn’t mean that you’re actually GOOD. Even if you ARE good, you can always get better. Toastmasters can give you a lot of skills and keep good speakers improving. If you still don’t know whether you’d like Toastmasters, why not visit a meeting? If you still don’t think it’s your cup of tea, we’ll still be happy you came by.
Why Toastmasters over other public speaking programs?
College and high school courses in public speaking usually involve the students sitting through dozens of lectures followed by one or two speaking opportunities. When the speeches are over, you get a grade. Often, you get graded on what you did wrong. This isn’t a way to build reassurance and motivation. Then too, you rarely get much of a chance to practice by doing. You get up at the end of the semester, give your speech, and sit down. Toastmasters is constant reinforcement and constant improvement. You learn by doing, not by sitting there while someone lectures for hours. For-profit courses such as Dale Carnegie can be very good for their participants. They also cost a lot and when they’re over, they’re over. Toastmasters costs very little in comparison and can last a lifetime.
Where can I go for more information?
Visit our club in-person or fill out our e-mail contact form to have someone contact you, or visit www.toastmasters.org.