Competent Communication

What is Toastmasters?

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 potent leadership and management aspect to the organization if you aspire to reach that level.

How is Toastmasters organised?
All Toastmasters members belong to one or more clubs. 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, and today the organization serves over 230,000 members in 92 countries, through its over 11,500 member clubs.

What do Toastmasters do?
Toastmasters meet regularly to practice speaking and to evaluate each other’s skills. At a local club, besides gaining confidence in many aspects of both speaking and leadership, Toastmasters often gain new friends. There are no instructors at a meeting. Instead, each speech and meeting is critiqued by a member in a positive manner, focusing on what was done right and what could be improved.

How much does it cost to join Toastmasters?
Toastmasters is a non-profit organization, so the cost of joining a club covers necessary expenses only, and is very low when compared to professional seminars and other training courses. Lucan Toastmasters collects dues from current members twice a year, in September and in February. A certain percentage of your dues is submitted to Toastmasters International to pay for membership materials, award certificates, processing fees, conferences and training. Anything above that goes into the club treasury to pay for room rental fees, contest prizes, gifts, postal costs, and miscellaneous office supplies. The current membership fee for the 2015/16 season is €170 per year which can be paid in full in September, or can be paid in two installments: €85 in September and €85 in February.  New members are required to pay a once off €20 administration fee to cover the additional cost of registering a new member with Toastmasters International.

When I become a member, what will be expected of me?
By joining Toastmasters, you are making a commitment to your own growth. You can give speeches at your own pace. We can provide a mentor to help you get started and successfully complete your goals. We are all here because we believe in the Toastmasters concept and want to learn better speaking and leadership skills by supporting each other.

What else does Toastmasters have to offer?
As with many organisations, Toastmasters is what the members make it. Lucan Toastmasters have a commitment to helping each other improve our speaking and leadership skills. Involvement in the “Toastmasters Experience” can go well beyond that, though. You can compete in speech contests that, if you win at increasing levels, can name you the “World Champion of Public Speaking.” You can become a leader at the club level, or a higher level, where your leadership affects many clubs and members around the country. You can attend conferences to meet and network with fellow Toastmasters from other clubs around the world.

What do you mean by leadership skills?
Toastmasters is best known for the “learn public speaking” aspect of its program, however, leadership is just as important. Leaders are not the same as managers, so what makes a great leader? Toastmasters teach us about service leadership. This viewpoint suggests that the role of a leader, no matter what type of authority is involved, is to lead by helping or enabling others, not by forcing them. You can hone your leadership skills in various ways in Toastmasters: by leading meetings, becoming an officer of the club, or taking an active leadership role at higher levels of the organization.

What’s the Area, Division and District levels all about?
All clubs are divided into different Areas, Districts and Divisions for logistical and management reasons. Lucan Toastmasters is in Area 26 (along with Clondalkin, Rathfarnham and Plain Speakers in Naas clubs). All of Area 26 clubs are in Division M (along with clubs from Areas 5, 18 and 54). And all Division M clubs are in District 71 (along with Districts A, C, D, E, F, G, S and Y). Each layer of Toastmasters is managed by its own Governor: Area Governor, Division Governor and District Governor which are elected yearly.

What do the letters after members’ names mean?
The letters after members’ names indicate the level the member has achieved. Members work towards Leadership (CL, ALB, ALS) and Communication (CC, ACB, ACS, ACG) goals. When all levels of both goals are achieved, a member achieves the highest level – Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM):

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Meetings

Can I just show up to a meeting?
Sure! Guests are always welcome at Toastmasters meetings. Sometimes it’s easier to meet new people when you bring a friend along!

What happens at a meeting?
Meetings are filled with laughter, learning, listening, and, yes, speaking. One member, appointed as the Toastmasters of the Evening presides over the meeting. Prepared speeches are given and evaluated by members. Impromptu speaking skills based on a question and answer format are practiced in the “Table Topics” portion of the meeting. Visitors are invited to participate in the meeting if they want to. Each prepared speech is evaluated along with the meeting itself. A meeting Timer lets everyone who spoke know how long they talked, and a meeting Grammarian gives feedback on how well people used the language. The Toastmaster of the Evening wraps up the session and adjourns the meeting.

What will happen when I visit?
You will be warmly greeted and provided with a meeting agenda. All of us remember what it was like attending a meeting for the first time so we will explain what is happening and invite you to relax and enjoy the presentations. You may be asked if you’d like to participate in the meeting (which you may simply decline). You may also be asked at the close of the meeting to share your thoughts (again, you may simply decline). You will be invited to attend the next meeting!

Are your meetings accessible?
Lucan Toastmasters meet in the Springfield Hotel which is fully accessible with special accommodations such as handicapped parking and a ramp to access the building. Please call the club ahead of time so that we can be sure to arrange for assistance. Other accommodations such as printed material formatted in Braille or for low vision should be requested at least a month in advance to make sure it can be secured from Toastmasters International.

Making Speeches

Do you just make up speeches?
When you become a member, you receive the “Communications and Leadership” manual. It guides you through 10 speech outlines, each of which deals with a set of skills that a speaker should learn. The topic of each speech is up to you. The completion of the manual entitles the member to receive a “Competent Communicator” (CC) award. Beyond this manual, there are many advanced manuals for your on-going professional and personal development.

How long is a typical speech?
Speeches for the Communication and Leadership Manual are usually between 5-7 minutes in length. Advanced manuals have projects that can run as long as 15-20 minutes.

Table Topics

What is Table Topics?
In this section of the meeting, members and guests have the opportunity to present one-minute impromptu speeches on a variety of subjects. This is a valuable way of developing the skill of “thinking on your feet”, and coping with life’s unexpected circumstances.

Why do you have “Table Topics”?
Impromptu (or extemporaneous) speaking is a valuable skill in today’s world. Table Topics is a way for us to practice thinking and speaking “on our feet.” A Table Topics Master presents participants with questions or topics “at random” and you have 1-2 minutes to give a response. There are a lot of ways to respond to impromptu situations. You won’t always know the answer, but you can still answer in a relaxed, effective way. Table Topics are one of the most fun parts of our meeting.

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