||This article possibly contains original research. (January 2014)|
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (July 2008)|
|Motto||"Where Leaders Are Made"|
|Formation||October 22, 1924; incorporated December 19, 1932|
|Legal status||Non-profit organization|
|Headquarters||Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA|
|over 313,000 members; over 14,650 clubs; 126 countries|
|Mohammed Murad, DTM|
|Board of Directors|
Toastmasters International (TI) is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. Through its thousands of member clubs, Toastmasters International offers a program of communication and leadership projects designed to help people learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking.
The organization grew out of a single club, Smedley Chapter One Club, which would become the first Toastmasters club. It was founded by Ralph C. Smedley on October 22, 1924, at the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, United States. Toastmasters International was incorporated under California law on December 19, 1932. Throughout its history, Toastmasters has served over four million people, and today the organization serves over 313,000 members in 126 countries, through its over 14,650 member clubs.
- 1 History
- 2 Membership
- 3 Educational program
- 4 Club meetings and meeting roles
- 5 Conferences and officer training
- 6 Additional programs
- 7 Organization
- 8 Contests
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The beginning of Toastmasters clubs
Toastmasters originally began  as a series of short-lived speaking clubs organized by Ralph C. Smedley during his tenure with the YMCA. In 1903, as education director of the YMCA facility in Bloomington, Illinois, he discovered there was a need for training in speech. As Smedley designed a club within the "Y" for speech training, he struggled for a name, until George Sutton, the general secretary, suggested calling it a Toastmasters club. The boys liked the name and the club was a success.
At each club meeting, there was a rotation of duties with members taking turns at presiding and speaking. Short speeches were evaluated by Ralph and the other older men, and the boys were invited to join in the evaluation to learn more. The club performed its intended purpose as leadership and speech improved in the other educational groups with which these young men were associated.
The club only lasted a year after Ralph Smedley moved to the YMCA at Rock Island, Illinois, as General Secretary in 1910. He organized a Toastmasters Club at the Rock Island "Y", which soon reached a membership of 75. When Ralph Smedley left the Rock Island "Y", the Toastmasters Club there also soon perished.
After he spent over two years with an architect working on YMCA architecture, he accepted the post of YMCA Secretary at San Jose, California, in September 1919, and soon had a Toastmasters Club flourishing at his new YMCA. Again the club lasted only a short time after he moved to Santa Ana, California, in 1922.
1924–1927: First permanent clubs formed
Shortly after moving to the Santa Ana YMCA, Smedley organized a new Toastmasters club, which became Club No. 1 of Toastmasters International. The first meeting was held at the YMCA building on October 22, 1924. Until then, the Toastmasters club was an educational arm of the YMCA.
In the autumn of 1925, J. Clark Chamberlain of Anaheim, California, visited the Toastmasters Club. The following winter, Smedley and Chamberlain organized a second club in Anaheim. The Toastmasters Club idea spread to Los Angeles, Long Beach, and other southern California cities. Representatives of these clubs met and organized an association.
Founding of Toastmasters International
In order to save the time consumed in replying to many letters and inquiries, Smedley prepared a "Manual of Instructions" and "Ten Lessons in Public Speaking", which he mimeographed and bound in paper covers. On October 25, 1928, he obtained copyrights on his publications and trademarked the name "Toastmasters Club".
The new association needed a name, and because a club now existed in British Columbia, Canada, they chose to call it Toastmasters International. There were about 30 clubs when the association was formed in 1930, and in 1932, Toastmasters International was incorporated as a California Non-profit corporation. Smedley took on the positions of Secretary and Editor of the new association, while continuing his YMCA work.
He resigned as YMCA Secretary in 1941 to devote more time to Toastmasters International. Through the war years he operated the organization out of a small office. When the war ended, a new Secretary, Ted Blanding, replaced Smedley, who remained active as Educational Director for the rest of his life, as well as a permanent member of the Board of Directors. In 1950, Smedley wrote "Beyond Basic Training". At the Toastmasters International convention at Atlanta, Georgia, August 18–20, 1960, Ralph C. Smedley displayed a model of the then-new Toastmasters International Headquarters in Santa Ana, California.
Toastmasters after Smedley
Ralph Smedley died in 1965.
In 1970, Toastmasters International admitted its first female member, Helen Blanchard, under the name Homer Blanchard. In 1973, Toastmasters International began officially admitting women, and in 1985, Helen became the group's first female president.
In 1975, Terrence McCann, an Olympic wrestler, was chosen to serve as the Executive Director of Toastmasters International, a position he held until retiring in 2001. Donna Groh served at that position from 2001 to 2008. The current Executive Director, Dan Rex, has served since 2008.
As of August 2014, there are more than 313,000 members and over 14,650 clubs in 126 countries, with annual membership growth of 7.3% and an increase of 17.2% in new clubs. Membership has grown consecutively every year since 1993.
Toastmasters members belong to local clubs, which generally have between 10 and 40 members, with 20 members being a typical size. The local clubs meet on a regular basis for members to practice various skills useful in public speaking, including giving speeches, speaking extemporaneously, listening, and providing each other with feedback and evaluation. Some clubs meet monthly, some meet twice a month, and some meet weekly.
Membership is open to all people ages 18 and above wishing to improve their communications and leadership skills. Youths interested in these skills are served through the Youth Leadership and Gavel Club programs. Club Members are also allowed to speak or officiate in other clubs worldwide 
Toastmasters International has a policy of non-discrimination based on age (except those persons under 18 years of age), race, color, creed, gender, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. Although Toastmasters was initially formed as a male-only organization, membership was opened to women in August 1973. Certain clubs (referred to as "closed clubs" or "in-house clubs") organized within businesses restrict membership to people in the organization; Clubs may also restrict membership on any other criteria they choose, as long is the criteria does not conflict with the non-discrimination policy. By the club constitution, clubs are required to vote in all new members, and may revoke the membership of any individual member of the club by majority vote of a quorum of active members.
Gavel Clubs (Toastmasters-sponsored groups for teenagers, prisoners, or other groups who may be ineligible for membership in Toastmasters International) may be set up upon request at schools and institutions to provide them with the Toastmasters experience. Other than the mix of membership and that no official Toastmasters titles such as CC, CL, AC, etc., will be awarded, the benefit received from a Gavel Club is essentially the same as that of a Toastmasters club.
Toastmasters also has a Youth Leadership program, which is an eight-session program that introduces school-age children to the art of public speaking. These Youth Leadership programs are conducted by members of Toastmaster Clubs in the local area. They allow active members who put in effort to gain confidence and expertise in the art of public speaking.
Some clubs are advanced clubs, with varying membership requirements. The most common is requiring members to maintain dual membership with their home (non-advanced) club and to have earned a Competent Communicator (CC) award, but other examples include requiring members to have an Advanced Communicator (AC) or Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award, be a current district leader, have a strong interest in professional speaking, a specific interest in humorous speaking, etc.
Company clubs are restricted to the employees. Employees use a lunch hour or special arrangement or after hours to practice public speaking.
In summary, community clubs are open to everyone above the age of 18 and subject to membership approval (VOTE). Specialty or Advanced clubs have various requirements. Company or Corporate clubs are restricted to employees.
A Toastmasters club adopts a "learn-by-doing" philosophy, wherein each member learns at a pace suitable to his or her developmental needs. The Toastmasters program is divided into two separate tracks, Communication and Leadership, with members progressing along each track by presenting speeches and taking on roles within their club, district, and Toastmasters International itself.
Toastmasters has grown from being an English-only organization to one that develops communication and leadership skills in several languages. There are now clubs in many languages, including Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, German, Japanese, Spanish, and Tamil, among others. The basic manual (the Competent Communication manual described below) can be purchased in Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), French, German, Japanese, and Spanish as well as in English.
The heart of the Toastmasters curriculum is the communication track, defined by the Competent Communication manual (formerly called Communication and Leadership Program) and a set of fifteen advanced manuals. The Competent Communication manual consists of ten speech projects, each building upon the other in skills and difficulty. The advanced manuals have five projects each, and each manual focuses on a particular aspect or type of presentation (such as technical presentations, storytelling, or interpersonal communication).
For each project, the member prepares and delivers a speech in front of the club. Speakers are expected to keep their presentations within prescribed time limits. For most Competent Communication speeches, the limit is five to seven minutes. The Icebreaker (CC Manual, Project 1) is between 4–6 minutes. While some Advanced communication projects are five to seven minutes, some are shorter and most are longer, generally ten to fifteen minutes, and some are a half an hour or more. After the member gives the presentation, another Toastmaster evaluates the presenter based on the criteria for each project. The distinctive feature of Toastmasters is this continual evaluation. Each activity at a club is evaluated: speeches are evaluated both orally at the meeting and in the member's manual. In some clubs, even the evaluators are themselves evaluated at the end of the meeting by a "General Evaluator", also a club member. This near-immediate feedback provides the member with information on how he or she can improve his or her presentation skills for the next speech and is intended to provide a positive experience for the speaker.
The oral evaluations are intended to also help the evaluator improve his or her ability to give constructive feedback to other Toastmasters. Learning to give feedback develops many skills, some of which include: effective listening; how to motivate, encourage and support other members; and how to develop and present a short evaluation with minimal preparation. Language is an important element of effective evaluation and so too is the structure. The structure of a Toastmaster Evaluation might be referred to as the "feedback sandwich," the "PIP" (praise, improve, praise) method, or the "CRC" (commend, recommend, commend) method.
After completing the ten Competent Communication projects, a member is entitled to the Competent Communicator award, and may add the post-nominal CC to their name for Toastmasters purposes. Prior to July 2008, Toastmasters awarded the designation Competent Toastmaster (post-nominal CTM) for this achievement.
After achieving their CC, the Toastmaster then can go on to more advanced projects. There are 15 advanced manuals in the Toastmasters program, each consisting of five projects. These include projects on sales presentations, speaking to inform, speeches by management, interpretative reading, speaking on television, entertaining dinner speaking, communicating with news media, interpersonal communication, and others. The Advanced Communicator awards are given to members who complete two manuals per level as well as performing various other duties. There are three levels of Advanced Communicator, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, with the respective post-nominals ACB, ACS, and ACG. Prior to July 2008, Toastmasters awarded the identical Advanced Toastmaster Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards (with post-nominals ATM-B, ATM-S, and ATM-G). These in turn were originally expanded from the Able Toastmaster award (post-nominal ATM).
In addition to the various project manuals, Toastmasters provides a number of educational programs and seminar packages that members can present. The Better Speaker Series is a collection of educational modules that teach certain aspects of creating and giving presentations. There are also the Success/Communication 'Success/Leadership seminar programs, such as the Youth Communications program, which members can present inside or outside of the club over a number of meetings.
Toastmasters also teaches leadership skills. This is motivated in part by the fact that Toastmasters International is staffed completely by volunteers (except for a staff of about 90 paid personnel at the World Headquarters). Even the board of directors is composed of volunteers, who still hold memberships in local clubs and are not paid.
When a person joins a Toastmasters club, they are given a copy of the Competent Leadership manual, which contains ten projects which can be completed by serving in various meeting roles, as well as participating in and/or organizing club contests, membership campaigns, and PR campaigns in their club. This manual can be completed in as little as five to six months, although most members will take more time to complete its projects. Upon completion, a member can obtain his or her Competent Leader award (post-nominal CL).
After completing the Competent Leadership manual, members can go on toward the Advanced Leader awards, which are given in two levels, Bronze and Silver (with post-nominal ALB and ALS, respectively). The Bronze level requirements include serving a minimum of six months as a club officer, participating in the creation of a club success plan while in office, and attending officer training. As well, ALB candidates must have attained their Competent Communicator award, and conducted two educational programs from Toastmasters' The Successful Club Series and/or The Leadership Excellence Series. For AL Silver, the additional requirements of serving a year as a district officer, completing a High Performance Leadership program, and being a club sponsor, mentor, or coach are needed to attain that designation.
Toastmasters has developed a series of procedures and materials for training its members and officers in basic leadership skills. Many districts hold training sessions for officers, known as Toastmasters Leadership Institute (originally called Toastmasters University), twice a year for club officers and for any other members who wish to attend. Divisions within districts are also encouraged to run smaller training sessions for club officers, especially in larger districts where it may be difficult for all club officers to attend a TLI session. Toastmasters conferences, also twice a year in each district, provide other opportunities to learn or present on leadership skills.
Club meetings also give members the opportunity to learn parliamentary procedure and meeting etiquette that can be important in business and political settings. While some aspects of parliamentary procedure and etiquette are present throughout the meeting, the business portion of a club meeting allows for more in-depth experience. In addition, Toastmasters provides as part of the Success/Leadership seminar series a five-part program on parliamentary procedure.
Toastmasters provides a number of educational modules outside of the regular project-based curriculum that teach members on leadership skills. These include The Leadership Excellence Series which deals with individual leadership skills, and The Successful Club Series which are targeted at the club as a group. The Success/Leadership programs also exist, as a leadership counterpart to Success/Communication. Like Success/Communication, these programs can be presented inside or out of the club, to non-members.
Toastmasters awards its highest level, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), to members who have achieved both the Advanced Communication Gold and Advanced Leader Silver awards. To achieve the DTM typically takes five to eight years of dedicated service and leadership in at the local club and area (or higher) levels. DTM candidates must also perform more than 40 public presentations (as part of earning the prerequisite Competent Communicator and Advanced Communicator awards). More than 20,000 of Toastmaster's 4 million past and present members have achieved the elite DTM status. Some dedicated Toastmasters members have achieved multiple DTM designations. Members who have earned their DTM are usually honored and presented with a medal at a district conference following their achievement.
The Distinguished Toastmaster title is not necessarily the end of the journey for most Toastmasters. Many Toastmasters will re-enter the program and repeat it at least once more. Every iteration through the program affords the individual additional experience in either the chosen direction or a totally new direction at their discretion.
The youngest known DTMs are José Antonio Rivera Colorado from District 34 (age 20, on May 5, 2014), Jared Kang from District 80 (age 20, on July 11, 2014), and Omer Farooq from District 79 (age 21, on July 1, 2014).
Club meetings and meeting roles
Every Toastmasters club meets on a regular basis, at least 12 times a year. Most clubs meet once a week or twice a month, usually for 1 to 2.5 hours, depending on the club. Each meeting has a structured format, with various members participating in the different roles in the meetings. The meeting is run by a Toastmaster of the Day (TMOD or TME for Toastmaster of the Evening) with the help of Table Topics Master and General Evaluator.
There are three basic parts to the Toastmasters meeting: the prepared speeches, table topics, and evaluations. In the prepared speaking portion of the meeting, several Toastmasters will give a prepared presentation or speech before the group. Speeches are usually designed to meet the requirements of one of the projects in the communication manuals. "Table topics" is an extemporaneous speaking exercise where the speaker speaks "off the cuff"; that is, the speaker responds to a question or topic that is not known beforehand. The Table Topics Master presents the topic, calls on an individual, and then that individual has 1 to 2 minutes to respond.
The evaluation session is where feedback is provided to all members, including the speakers. The evaluation session is headed by a General Evaluator, who calls on individual speech evaluators to give a 2- to 3-minute evaluation of an earlier presentation. After the evaluators have finished giving their evaluations, the General Evaluator calls for the helper reports:
- There is a Grammarian who notes mispronunciations and mistakes in grammar, or word repetition (e.g. "I did ... I did"), sometimes called "double clutching." In some clubs, the Grammarian will also point out positive uses of language, including nice turns of phrase, clever formulations, and especially poetic or otherwise exceptional uses of language.
- An Ah-Counter keeps track of audible pauses such as "ah," "er," "um," "well," and "you know". These are also called embolalia, which are naturally occurring pauses or fillers in the flow of a speech. In some clubs, the role of the Grammarian and the Ah-Counter will be combined.
- The meeting's Timer reports how much time each speaker, table topics responder, and evaluator took to give his or her presentation. Then the General Evaluator, or Master Evaluator, gives his or her overall evaluation of the meeting and makes recommendations of ways to improve future meetings. Some clubs have Table Topics Evaluators who evaluate members' responses to the table topics; for those that do not, the General Evaluator frequently fills that role. In addition, some advanced clubs have a 'round robin' evaluation for the speakers. In addition to the designated evaluator giving an evaluation recorded in the member's manual, the other members around the room are asked for additional comments on the presentation.
In many clubs with longer meetings, particularly in Australia, the evaluation session is split up and the various parts are located closer to the action being evaluated. For example, Table Topics may be evaluated by 'Table Topics Evaluators' once the 'Table Topics Leader' has asked the assigned number of question and the speeches in a Prepared Speech session may be evaluated immediately the last speech has finished and the Toastmaster has called on the Timer to report the speeches' times. The General Evaluator in this scheme of things speaks only for himself or herself, with the Chairman introducing assignments throughout the meeting.
This way of organizing meetings allows for multiple Prepared Speech and Table Topics sessions in one meeting. It is not unknown for 8 Prepared Speeches to be delivered in one night in up to 4 Prepared Speech sessions: more people are involved and the number of spectators is reduced. The various parts of the meeting are seen as blocks and can be rearranged so that each meeting is not quite the same as the one before or the one after.
There are sometimes other roles in the program, depending on the club. For example, there may be an Invocator who gives an invocation or inspirational opener; a Humor Master, Jokemaster, or Raconteur who tells a funny story or jokes; a Wordmaster or Lexicologist who presents a "word of the day" to help the members increase their vocabulary (with the intention that members use the word of the day in their presentations); a Listener (also called a Quizmaster) who asks questions after the presentations to make sure everyone was listening; and/or an Award Presenter, who presents awards at the end of the meeting. Some clubs also have an Educational Presentation in which a speaker presents an educational aspect of Toastmasters. In many clubs, members vote for the Best Speaker, Best Table Topics Speaker, and Best Evaluator of the meeting. This "Best [whatever]" usually gets a ribbon to keep or a traveling trophy to take with him or her until the next meeting, when he or she will have to present it to the next winner. There may also be a Vote Counter, who collects the attendants' votes for Table Topic Speaker, (Rehearsed) Speaker, Evaluator, and Program Manager. The Vote Counter may also collect written evaluations to be given to the persons who gave rehearsed speeches. German clubs have introduced the Pub Master which is responsible to reserve a table and lead the way to a restaurant or pub for an informal meeting after the toastmaster session.
The order of the program varies from club to club and country to country. Many noon-time clubs and other clubs that are constrained by time do their prepared speeches first, followed by Table Topics, followed by evaluations. Dinner clubs in the United States tend to do Table Topics first, and then everyone sits back and relaxes for the after-dinner prepared speeches. Alternatively, some clubs that are very time-conscious do prepared speeches first, then evaluations, saving Table Topics for last.
Conferences and officer training
In addition to club meetings, Toastmasters offers training opportunities through events organized at the district and international levels. Districts are responsible for hosting a minimum of four events each year: club officer training in June–August and December–February, and two district conferences in the spring and fall.
Toastmasters International hosts an annual convention every August, in a different city each year. The international convention conducts business such as electing the international officers, hosts educational sessions for Toastmasters members, and also hosts the final rounds of Toastmasters' International Speech Contest. The international convention is also when Toastmasters presents its Golden Gavel award to a person "who has demonstrated outstanding ability exemplifying the principles of Toastmasters International, particularly in the field of communication and leadership." This award has been granted annually since 1959, and Toastmasters keeps a list of recipients on their website. In 2014, the annual convention will be held in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, the first time the event has been held outside of North America, after an aborted attempt to host it in Sydney, Australia in 2010.
Beyond clubs and conferences, Toastmasters offers a number of programs available to non-members. These programs are run by Toastmasters members, often but not always for credit toward Toastmasters curriculum awards. Toastmasters International also encourages its member clubs and districts to run speakers bureaus.
Primarily, the Success/Communication and Success/Leadership module series are promoted by Toastmasters for presenting to people outside of Toastmasters. Each series is a collection of six modules designed to be presented as seminars, facilitated by an active club member. Toastmasters encourages the presentation of these modules within the club to improve member abilities, and out of the club to promote Toastmasters. In particular, Toastmasters promotes its Speechcraft module as its "#1 membership-building tool" for clubs, as the module provides participants with experience writing and presenting speeches with the aid of the coordinator and other participants.
Toastmasters also offers the Accredited Speaker program, for recognizing members of Toastmasters clubs who are professional speakers. The program requires applicants to have their AC Bronze (or older equivalent) award, as well as have performed at least twenty-five speaking engagements in the three years prior to applying.
Lastly, the Youth Leadership Program offers some of the benefits of Toastmasters to teens, primarily by providing training in leadership roles with some opportunities for public speaking.
Communication and Leadership Award
The Communication and Leadership Award is the highest award available that is presented to a non-Toastmaster. It is presented at a District conference to a person who is not a member of Toastmasters who has made an outstanding contribution in the community by demonstrating exemplary communication and leadership skills. This may be, for example, a politician, a business person, or a community volunteer.
The primary membership unit in Toastmasters is the club. Members may belong to one or more clubs, although most members belong only to a single club. Membership in a club can be open or closed. Open clubs are those where any person may apply to join, whereas closed clubs limit membership, generally to people working in the same organization, office tower, etc. Some clubs are advanced, where membership is usually only granted to current or past Toastmasters members who have earned their Competent Communicator or Competent Toastmaster award.
The minimum requirements for a club are to have eight or more members, and a minimum of three officers (the club president, a vice-president, and secretary). For a club to be granted a charter (and therefore be recognized as a Toastmasters club) a minimum membership of twenty is required; this is usually referred to as "charter strength" when discussing membership. Club officers are, in order of precedence:
- Vice-President Education
- Vice-President Membership
- Vice-President Public Relations
- Sergeant at Arms
The outgoing President from the previous term, the Immediate Past President, also serves on the Club Committee, usually in an advisory role.
Depending on club bylaws, officers are elected either annually or semiannually, with elections taking place every May (and in clubs with semiannual terms, also in November). Officer terms begin July 1 and in semiannual clubs, January 1. Members can serve multiple terms in each office; the only restriction on this is that club presidents may not serve more than 12 consecutive months.
The clubs are served by Toastmasters districts, providing training opportunities for members and promoting Toastmasters to larger organizations outside the reach of individual clubs. Districts are geographically bound, and are usually divided when the number of clubs within grow past a certain number. Not all clubs are assigned to districts, but provisional districts and territorial councils exist so that clubs outside of districts can be offered a similar level of support. There are a few clubs outside of any of these structures.
Districts organize within themselves divisions (groups of three to seven areas) and areas (groups of four to seven clubs). Each area and division has a governor, and may also have assistant governors for education and for training, who aid the governor in promoting the Toastmasters curriculum as well as membership in clubs under their purview.
A district is governed on a day-to-day basis by a District Executive Committee (DEC), consisting of the following officers:
- District Governor (DG)
- Lieutenant Governor Education & Training (LGET)
- Lieutenant Governor Marketing (LGM)
- Immediate Past District Governor (IPDG)
- Public Relations Officer (PRO)
- District Secretary
- District Treasurer
- Division Governors (DivG)
- Area Governors (AG)
The DEC is overseen by a District Council (DC), meeting twice a year at the district conferences, consisting of the following officers:
- All District Executive Committee officers above
- Club Presidents
- Club Vice Presidents of Education (VPE)
Most districts also have appointed non-voting positions such as:
- Sergeant at Arms
- Club Guidance/Rescue/Coach Chair
- New Club/Extension Chair
- Youth Leadership Chair
- Nominations Chair
- Alignment Chair
The three most senior district officers and division governors must be elected. Other officer positions within a district are usually appointed by the District Governor (subject to confirmation by the District Council), although a few districts elect them.
The board of directors manages the overall global activities of the organization. The board of directors is composed of several officers, as well as international directors elected from various regions (collections of geographically close districts). The board is assisted in day-to-day activities by the world headquarters staff, led by the executive director. In addition to the 14 international directors (one from each region), the board of directors has the following officers:
- International President
- First Vice-President
- Second Vice-President
- Immediate Past International President
- Executive director (ex officio position)
The board sets strategy and policy, while World Headquarters sets protocol and supports district and club operations.
Each of the 14 regions also has a Region Advisor (RA), to help the districts in that region with district success planning and marketing. Their term is March 1 through June 30 of the following year, so they overlap, and there is both an incoming and outgoing RA for four months of the year.
Each district runs an International Speech contest, plus up to three other contests out of a list of four (Humorous, Tall Tales, Table Topics, and Evaluation). All contest are governed by an official speech contest rulebook, updated each calendar year by Toastmasters International.
Competitions allow members to practice their communication skills under demanding conditions, view the efforts of skilled members of other clubs, and provide entertainment during business meetings or dinner functions. The winner of each of the four main club contests proceeds to the next level of competition—an area contest; the winner of the area contest goes on to the division contest; the winner of the division contest goes on to the district contest. Most contests stop at the district level. The one exception is the International speech contest, which continues to the semi-finals, with those winners competing in the World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS).
Contest speeches are timed, with the timings for the five official contests set out by Toastmasters International. Contestants whose speeches are under time or over time by more than thirty seconds are disqualified (the impromptu speech contest does not allow an under-time grace period) ; however, in case of a technical problem with the timing equipment or lights, contestants are given an additional thirty seconds before being disqualified.
Each contest has its own rules regarding content and contestant evaluation. In the International Speech Contest, the contestant selects the subject and type of speech to give, and the speech is judged on the overall presentation using a point system for various categories of skills. In a Humorous Speech Contest the speeches are judged using a different set of categories, which include how well humor was used. In a Tall Tales Contest, judging is based on speaking skills and use of exaggeration for humorous effect. In an Evaluation Contest, a test speaker (sometimes called a model speaker or a target speaker) gives a speech, and then all of the contestants leave the room, returning one at a time to evaluate the same speech. In the Table Topics Contest, contestants are led into the room one at a time and presented with a topic they have not previously been informed of and are judged on how well they respond; each contestant is given the same topic.
Judges - who are to be kept anonymous when practical - evaluate contestants with a rating system on a wide range of criteria based on the speech type. These rating scores are summed into a single score. The score is used to define a ranking of the top three candidates. A Borda count is used to determine the winner from the rankings. Each contest has a special tie-breaking judge who ranks all candidates; this ranked list is used to break any ties in the contest.
International Speech Contest
The International Speech Contest is an annual Toastmasters contest that runs through all levels of the organization. Starting with club-level contests in the early months of the year, contestants proceed through higher levels until reaching the finals at the Toastmasters annual conference. Winners of this contest are awarded the title "World Champion of Public Speaking." Competitors from Toastmasters clubs from all over the world enter this contest; however, members of clubs outside of districts are ineligible to participate.
Participants in the International Speech Contest are required to have completed a minimum of six speech projects toward their Competent Communicator award before the club contest, and must create substantially original speeches for the final International level competition. Speakers who plagiarize or otherwise make significant use of quotes in a contest speech are disqualified.
- "Toastmasters International Achieves Record Growth" (HTML) (Press release). Toastmasters International. August 5, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
As its 90th anniversary approaches, the global public speaking and leadership organization posts record expansion; now has more than 313,000 members and 14,650 clubs -- Toastmasters International, the global organization devoted to communication and leadership skills development, announced record growth over the past year, with a 7.3 percent increase in membership, a 17.2 percent increase in new clubs and a presence in 126 countries.
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- "Speech Contest Rulebook 2013" (PDF). Toastmasters International. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- "World Champions of Public Speaking". Toastmasters International. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- "FAQ". Toastmasters International. Retrieved 2013-10-06.
- Smedley, Ralph (1959). The Story of Toastmasters. Toastmasters International.
- Letter from the US Office of Personnel Management endorsing Toastmasters International's program