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Frequently Asked Questions


What is Toastmasters International?

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization headquartered in California, U.S.A.   Toastmasters International has existed for more than eighty years.  Its mission is to make effective oral communication a world-wide reality. Mainly, this applies to improving public speaking skills. However, there is also a leadership and management aspect to the organization and its training.

How is Toastmasters organized?

All Toastmasters members belong to a club. Clubs consist of at least eight members and may have forty or more. The recommended size for a club is twenty or more. Clubs exist in communities around the world, especially in North America. There are, at present, over 8,000 clubs around the world.

Do I have to ask permission to attend a meeting of a club?

Toastmasters welcomes all guests. If you plan to visit a club you can contact the Club President or other contact person, to let them know you plan to attend.  However, it is not necessary to call ahead. Clubs are generally open to all and they will be delighted to have you come to the meeting.

Is Toastmasters a social or drinking organization?

The name "Toastmasters" derives from the founding of the organization, in the 1920's, when one of the main types of public speaking a member of society would engage in was after dinner speaking, also known as Toast mastering.

It is rare that formal drinking and toasts take place now and these are usually only at major banquets or conferences. Some clubs have meals with their meetings, most do not.

What happens at a Toastmasters meeting?

Meetings last from one hour (especially lunch or breakfast meetings) to three hours (if the club meets infrequently).  The format varies slightly from club to club but the basics of meetings include:

  • The Business Meeting (following rules of Parliamentary Procedure, usually very brief)
  • Introduction of the Toastmaster of the meeting who presides over the program that day.
  • Prepared speeches from members.
  • Impromptu speeches from members (also known as Table Topics)
  • Oral evaluations of the prepared speeches
  • Reports from other meeting personnel including the Timer, Grammarian, Ah Counter, and General Evaluator

What is Table Topics?

Table topics is fun!  The purpose of Table Topics is to develop the skill of being able to speak "off the cuff".  On many occasions we are asked to comment or contribute to a discussion with little notice or preparation.  Table Topics develops comfort and skill in handling these types of situations.

A member of the club, assigned to be Topicsmaster for the meeting, will prepare a few impromptu topics and call on members to stand up and speak on the topic.  Members present a one to two minute impromptu speech on the topic which is not known until they are called to speak about it.

Table Topics might include current events, personal opinions or memories (e.g. your favourite holiday, a person you feel is a hero).  

If you don't know anything about the topic assigned to you, adjust your answer to something that you can speak about.

What is Evaluation?

In Toastmasters people learn by doing and also from the constructive feedback and support they receive from fellow members.  An evaluator gives speakers verbal and written feedback on each speech they present.  The evaluator provides a personal opinion of the talk, pointing out its strengths and offering suggestions for improving the next speech.  Evaluations have one purpose: to help the speaker become even more effective.

Why all the emphasis on time limits?

As noted above, all speeches have time limits, Table topics (1-2 minutes), evaluations (2-3 minutes), speech projects have varied time limits.

These limits are employed to train speakers to make effective use of the time allotted and keep them fro going until the audience is bored.  In the real world there are practical limits on how long a meeting can and should go.  Many times we are given specific amounts of time to do business and other presentations in social situations.  The concentration on time limits encourages speakers to honour the time available.

Why all the structure to the meetings?

Meetings often have twenty or more members in attendance.  The structured meeting provides a lot of roles for people to play in order to involve as many people as possible.  Meeting assignments vary from meeting to meeting, therefore everyone gets practice doing everything over the course of several meetings.

At one meeting you'll be giving a speech, the next time you might be Timer and the time after that you might be the Toastmaster, running the whole show.  This keeps you flexible and gives you practice at a variety of communication skills including speaking, listening, giving feedback, being creative, telling a job and so on.

What speech projects are there for me to work on?

Toastmasters provides two educational tracks: a communication track in which you develop your speaking skills and a leadership track, in which you develop leadership skills one.  You may work in both tracks at the same time, and you are encouraged to do so.  When you join Toastmasters you receive two project manuals: Competent Communication and Competent Leadership reflecting the two educational directions you can pursue in Toastmasters.

Communication Track

Members who wish to focus on communication skills begin with the Competent Communication manual.  

The Competent Communication manual projects develop basic speaking skills and help you acquire a basic comfort with speaking in public.  This manual has 10 speech projects, each project builds upon what you've learned in the proceeding project.  Each project calls on you to prepare a speech of approximately 5-7 minutes on a subject of your own choosing but using certain speaking principles.  Each manual project lists the objectives for the speech and includes a written checklist for your evaluator to use when evaluating your speech.

The ten projects include:  

  1. The Icebreaker - a speech about yourself; 
  2. Organize Your Speech; 
  3. Get to the Point (determining the purpose of your speech); 
  4. How To Say It (using the best words for your purpose); 
  5. Your Body Speaks (body language, gestures); 
  6. Vocal Variety; 
  7. Research Your Topic, 
  8. Get Comfortable With Visual Aids; 
  9. Persuade With Power, and
  10. Inspire Your Audience.

All ten projects are open for you to choose whatever topic you like.  Even if you pick a controversial topic Toastmasters audiences will evaluate you on how well you presented your subject, not on whether they agreed with you or not.

When you have completed all ten speech assignments in this manual you will earn the Toastmasters Competent Communicator designation.

If you wish to continue to pursue the Communication Track in Toastmasters you now have the opportunity to explore the many Advanced Communication Manuals (See Educational Advancement in TI)

Advanced Communication Series

After receiving CC recognition, you can work in the Advanced Communication Series manuals, where you’ll refine and enhance your speaking skills and become eligible for Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB), Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS) and Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG) recognition. There are 15 manuals, each containing five speech projects. Many of the manuals are career-oriented. You choose the manuals you want to complete and the skills you want to learn.

Leadership Track

The Competent Leadership manual has projects that will help you develop leadership skills (listening, critical thinking, giving feedback, time management, planning and implementation, organizing and delegating, facilitation skills, motivating people, mentoring and team building while serving in various club meeting roles. It also has specific projects, objectives to be accomplished and a section for evaluator comments.

When you complete the Competent Leadership manual projects you will be recognized as a Competent Leader. 

Advanced Leader Program

After earning the CL award you can further refine and develop your leadership skills by working in the advanced leader program. Members working in this program are eligible for Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) and Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) recognition.  See Educational Advancement in TI for more information about the leadership track.

I'm scared to death of speaking!  What can Toastmasters do for me?

Public speaking is the world's top fear.  In poll after poll public speaking comes up as something more feared than death.  Toastmasters can help you overcome your fear.

Everyone in a Toastmasters clubs joined because they realized they needed help communicating and speaking in public.  Members remember how they felt when they gave their first speech.  You will be pleasantly surprised to find out how supportive members of a Toastmasters club are.

Do you consider yourself a good speaker?  People sometimes join Toastmasters to learn how to enhance their delivery, better structure their presentations or improve their rapport with the audience.  Even if you are a good speaker you can always get better.  Toastmasters can help you improve as a speaker.

If you still don't know if you would benefit from Toastmasters, visit a meeting to see the program in action.  The club members will be happy to meet you.

How is Toastmasters more beneficial than other forms of speaking improvement?

Many other public speaking courses involve sitting through hours of lecture with one or two speaking opportunities. Toastmasters promotes constant reinforcement and ongoing improvement - you truly learn by doing.

Membership in Toastmasters

How can I join?

To join Toastmasters you join a club.  If you have visited a club and found it to your liking, ask for a Membership Application Form.  New members are always welcomed enthusiastically.

For a list of clubs that meet near you
contact me and I will provide you with a list of clubs that meet in your area.  

Or, visit the Toastmasters International website to find a club nearby.


How much does membership cost?

When joining Toastmasters, you will find yourself paying a fee which may include three different components. One is the standard fee that every new member must pay in order to receive their educational materials (see "new member fee" below). One is the standard Toastmasters International monthly membership fee. One is your club dues, if any.

All Toastmasters clubs are billed in March and September for semi- annual dues for their members who wish to remain members for the next six months. If you join in between those periods, you submit a pro-rated share of the dues. Clubs usually charge dues in addition to the world dues. Each club decides what it needs to charge (for meeting space charges, etc.). 

For most clubs the annual membership fee is approximately $200.

What do I get for my new member fee?

Your new member fee covers the cost of the following manuals which you will receive upon joining or shortly thereafter: the Competent Communication manual, the Competent Leadership manual, Gestures - Your Body Speaks, Effective Evaluation and Your Speaking Voice. The latter three are instructional manuals rather than project manuals. 

Are my dues tax deductible?

In Canada they are -- it is an educational expense and is tax deductible provided it is $100.00 or more. Your club will issue you with a tax receipt each year.

What do I get for my membership fees?

Your semi-annual dues paid to World Headquarters go partly for a subscription to the Toastmaster magazine, partly to support development of new educational programs, partly to support operations at World Headquarters, and partly to support your local District organization.

What should my objectives be as a new Toastmasters member?

One objective should be to attend every meeting you can and participate to the fullest, helping yourself and the other members of the club to become better communicators. The other should be to work on your speech projects working toward your leadership and/or your communication award.

The Toastmasters program now has two types of skill that it develops - communication and leadership skills.  People can decide to focus on one or the other of these types of skills.  Or they can pursue both types of training during the course of their membership.

Do I have to give all the speeches at Toastmasters club meetings?

No. So long as you are giving the speech to an audience with at least one Toastmasters member in attendance, and so long as a fellow Toastmaster completes the manual evaluation for that project, you may count that speech as a completed project assignment.

Educational Advancement in Toastmasters 

Communication Track

Competent Communicator is the basic speaking certification offered through Toastmasters. To earn this designation you have to complete the Competent Communication manual, which means you have to work your way through the ten speech projects contained therein.

Do I have to work through the Competent Communication manual in the order the projects are given?

No. You can do the projects out of order if you like. However, it is recommended that you follow the order given since the projects progress upwards in difficulty but if you have a speech idea or opportunity that better suits one of the later projects you may skip over earlier ones and do that one first.

It is not recommended that you skip around through the first six speeches, as each assignment builds on information and skills learned in the previous assignments.

After completing  the Competent Communicator manual you can begin refining and enhancing your basic speaking skills through the Advanced Communication manuals.

What are the Advanced Manuals?

The Toastmasters International Advanced Communication and Leadership program manuals focus on more specialized speaking opportunities.  These manuals give speakers instructions and suggestions on how to handle these more advanced speaking assignments and allow Toastmasters members to hone their skills in specific areas of interest or to explore new territory they have never tried before.  

Unlike the Competent Communicator manual, which encourages the speaker to carry out the assignments in the order they are listed in the manual, speakers doing advanced manual speeches can choose whatever manuals they wish and can do the assignments in any order.

The advanced manuals take you from being a competent speaker to being an effective, performer and leader.  These manuals offer new projects, covering a variety of public speaking and communication skills.  Members can chose projects from whichever manuals are of interest to them.  The timing of the assignments in these manuals is generally longer than the 5-7 time limit for the Competent Communication manual.

The Advanced Manuals include: 

  • Entertaining Speaker
  • Speaking to Inform
  • Public Relations
  • Discussion Leader
  • Specialty Speeches
  • Speeches by Management
  • Professional Speaker
  • Humorously Speaking
  • Technical Presentations
  • Persuasive Speaking
  • Communicating on Television
  • Storytelling
  • Interpretive Reading
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Special Occasion Speeches

Leadership Track

The Competent Leadership manual is the core of the leadership track. It features 10 projects, which you complete while serving in various club meeting roles.

Advanced Leader Program
After earning the CL award you can further refine and develop your leadership skills by working in the advanced leader program. Members working in this program are eligible for Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) and Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) recognition.

Toastmasters Recognition System

Communication Track

Competent Communicator (CC)

Requirements:  Completed the Competent Communication manual.

Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB)

Achieved Competent Communicator (CC).
Completed two Advanced Communication manuals.

Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS)

Achieved Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB)
Completed two additional advanced manuals (not those completed for any previous award)
Conducted any two programs from the Better Speaker Series and/or The Successful Club Series

Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG)

Achieved Advanced Communicator Silver 
Completed two additional advanced manuals (not those completed for any previous award)
Conducted a Success/Leadership program, Success/Communication program or a Youth Leadership program
Coached a new member with their first three speeches

Leadership Track

Competent Leader

Completed the Competent Leadership manual

Advanced Leadership Bronze (ALB)

Achieved Competent Leader
Achieved Competent Communicator
Served at least six months as a club officer
While serving as a club officer, participated in Club Officer training
Conducted any two programs from the Successful Club series and/or the Leadership Excellence Series

Advanced Leader Silver (ALS)

Achieved Advanced  Leader Bronze
Served a complete term as district officer (e.g. area governor)
Completed the High Performance Leadership program
Served successfully as a club sponsor, mentor or coach

Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM)

Distinguished Toastmaster is the highest recognition a member may receive.

Achieved Advanced Communicator Gold
Achieved Advanced Leader Silver

Educational Programs

What is the High Performance Leadership Program?

High Performance Leadership is program that offers instruction and practice in such vital leadership skills and activities as developing a mission and vision, goal setting and planning, identifying values and building a team.  The program requires you to assume a leadership role in y our company, community or Toastmasters club or District.  A Guidance Committee you have selected by you offers advice and evaluates your efforts.

What are the Better Speaker Series and the Successful Club Series?

Both are sets of programs developed by Toastmasters International to further develop speaking and training skills of members.

The modules come complete with instruction manuals for the participants and for the coordinator as well as transparencies to use during the session.

The Better Speaker Series programs offer practical tips on speaking.  Modules include: Beginning Your Speech, Concluding Your Speech, Creating an Introduction, Using Body Language and more....

The Successful Club Series programs discuss what members can do to make their club successful.  Topics include: The Moment of Truth, Evaluate to Motivate, Meeting Roles and Responsibilities, Going Beyond Our Club...

Other Skill Building Programs from TI

As if all the above were not enough to occupy one for a lifetime, Toastmasters International offers several other speaking projects to help you develop your leadership and communication skills including:

  • Speechraft - speech training program for prospective members,
  • Youth Leadership - speech training program for youth
  • How to Listen Effectively
  • The Art of Effective Evaluation
  • Build Your Thinking Power,
  • From Speaker to Trainer
  • How to Conduct Productive Meetings
  • Parliamentary Procedure in Action
  • Leadership Excellence Series
  • Building Your Leadership Power
  • Improving Your Management Skills

For more information about any or all of these programs or to purchase copies visit the Toastmasters International web site.

Speech Contests

In order to provide for members who enjoy competitive speaking and in order to "showcase the best speakers", Toastmasters clubs hold speech contests.  Each contest starts at the club level and works its way up the Toastmasters organization.  One contest (International Speech Contest) culminates at the Toastmasters International World Convention each August.

Speech Contest Rules

Toastmasters Speech Contests are:

  • International speech Contest - 5 to 7 minutes in length on any topic. 

To provide an opportunity an opportunity for speakers to improve their speaking abilities and to recognize the best as an encouragement to all.

  • Table Topics - 1 to 2 minutes in length.  Impromptu speaking.

All contestants are assigned the same impromptu topic to address.
Contest progresses as far as the District level.

  • Evaluation - 2 to 3 minutes in length.  A target speaker gives a speech which all the evaluation contests are to evaluate.  The contestants are taken from the room and given five minutes to prepare their speeches.
    It proceeds as far as the District level.
  • Humorous - 5 to 7 minutes on a topic selected by the speaker.

The Humourous and Table Topics contests are held in the Fall, the International and Evaluation contests in the Spring.

Are you competitive?  Then the Toastmasters Speech Contests are for you!


Does the Toastmasters program offering training for children?

To join Toastmasters you must be 18 years of age.  There is one program, called Youth Leadership, which some Toastmasters members offer to children.  The course is an 8-12 week program which covers the basic skills members practice in a club.  Watch for announcements of these program in your local paper or contact a local club to find out if anyone will be offering  the course.  




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Last modified: November 12, 2007