What Is a Toastmasters Club? The Heart of It All

January 2, 2023

3 min read

What Is a Toastmasters Club? The Heart of It All

What is a Toastmasters club? What happens at club meetings?

Toastmasters International helps people from all backgrounds become confident, skilled public speakers and leaders. While the organization has large events and comprehensive online educational programs, the heart of Toastmasters is their clubs.

Toastmasters is a partner of Yoodli. While we love it when you use Yoodli’s free AI speech games and feedback tool, we also encourage you to hone your public speaking skills with your fellow humans. Toastmasters is the best way to do that. So, keep reading to learn all about Toastmasters clubs, Toastmasters meeting roles, and the club meeting experience.

What Is a Toastmasters Club?

In 1905, Ralph C. Smedley, the education director at a YMCA in Illinois, saw a need for public speaking skills in the community. So, he started a club. He called it “Toastmasters,” based on the role of the toastmaster at banquets. He and a few others delivered short speeches, and the listeners provided feedback. Over time, clubs grew and multiplied, and Smedley incorporated Toastmasters International. (Learn more of the history of Toastmasters.)

Today, Toastmasters has over 280,000 members in 15,800 clubs in 149 countries around the world.

What Is a Toastmasters Club? The Heart of It All

Clubs are at the center of Toastmasters. What is a Toastmasters club? Most clubs comprise about 20 people who meet for an hour or two each week. (Some meet longer but less frequently.) Clubs meet in various places, including conference rooms, community centers, and universities. Some meet online, and some clubs blend in-person and virtual attendance.

Here are some of the opportunities available at club meetings:

  • Improve your public speaking and leadership skills
  • Build self-confidence and self-awareness
  • Practice writing speeches and delivering them in a small, supportive environment
  • Cultivate personal and professional relationships

Clubs have elected officers, including a president and treasurer.

Toastmasters Meeting Roles

Members take turns assuming different roles from meeting to meeting. Each role provides its own learning experience. While Toastmasters meeting roles might vary a bit from club to club, here’s what you can generally expect:

  • Toastmaster of the Day: This person emcees the meeting.
  • Table Topics Master: This person organizes and facilitates Table Topics®, an element of the meeting that lets participants practice impromptu speaking.
  • Timer: This person tracks the duration of each speech and helps speakers know how they’re doing on time.
  • Ah-Counter: This person tracks filler words and sounds (e.g., ah, um, like, you know) during speeches.
  • Grammarian: This person helps members develop their grammar skills and vocabulary. For example, they might introduce a particular word in the meeting and encourage its use.
  • Evaluator: This person gives feedback to speakers.
  • General Evaluator: This person provides an assessment of the entire meeting.

Learn more about each of these Toastmasters meeting roles.

What Happens in a Toastmasters Club Meeting?

The club president generally starts the meeting and introduces the Toastmaster of the Day. Then, the Toastmaster introduces the members who are filling the Toastmasters meeting roles that day.

Usually, at least two speakers each deliver a speech at the meeting. They prepare in advance in accordance with Toastmasters guidelines.

Near the end of the meeting, the Ah-Counter provides a report.

While each meeting has its own agenda, in the larger scheme of things, each member is working their way through the Toastmasters educational program.

Take a look at this short video to get a feel for what the Toastmasters club experience is like.

Attending a Toastmasters Club Meeting

Of course, the best way to learn what a Toastmasters club is like is to attend one yourself. Each club has its own personality. You can attend as a guest for free, and there’s no obligation to join, so you may visit multiple clubs until you find a good fit for you. They recommend that you let the club know that you plan to be there.

When you attend your first meeting, you’re welcome to sit back and observe. After the meeting, feel free to ask questions of the club officers.

Getting Started With Toastmasters

Likely, there’s a club near you. You also have the option of attending a virtual club meeting. You can find a club and get started when you’re ready. Toastmasters membership is limited to people who are at least 18 years old, although they do have youth programs for teens who are too young to join now.

Toastmasters is more than clubs. When you join, you’ll find a supportive community along with the best public speaking educational opportunities out there.