Powertalk International

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POWERtalk International
POWERtalk logo
Founded December 16, 1938 (1938-12-16)
Founder Ernestine White
Type Educational
Focus Public speaking, leadership skills
  • State of California
Origins Organized under the California Non-profit Public Benefit Corporation Law for charitable purposes
Area served
Product Training and skills development
Method Learn by doing in a supportive club environment
circa 3200
Key people
President: Val Harper
President-elect: Chris Endo
Secretary: Anita Henzler
Vice president Div. I: Maria Trujillo-Tough
Vice president Div. II: Judy Schuth
Vice president Div. III: Sue Simpkins
Vice president Div. IV: Akemi Kosuge
Parliamentarian: Marilyn Robinson
Slogan To love our language and use it with grace and facility
Website www.powertalkinternational.com
Formerly called
International Toastmistress Clubs
POWERtalk International is the brand name used by International Training in Communication

POWERtalk International is the operating name used by International Training in Communication (ITC), a non-profit organization of public-speaking clubs.

There are currently POWERtalk clubs in Australia, Austria, the Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Malawi, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and the United States.


POWERtalk International is governed by a board of directors elected by the membership.The operation of POWERtalk International is authorised by membership decision, as expressed in biennial convention action by accredited delegates from clubs in good standing. The 2013 convention was held in Honolulu, Hawaii.[1] The next convention will be held in Rotorua, New Zealand in 2015.

For administrative purposes there are four international divisions each representing a different part of the globe.

The board of directors comprises a president, president-elect, secretary and a division vice president for each of the four international divisions.

Within the international divisions there are regions. Regions vary in size and may encompass a large geographical area within a country, the whole of a country or several different countries. The regions hold annual or biennial conferences which include training workshops and a business meeting at which changes to the region bylaws and standing rules may be made.

Regions consist of councils that bring together clubs for different events throughout the year. Council meetings also include training workshops.

At region, council and club level activities are coordinated by an executive board consisting of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. Optionally there may be a second vice president. At region level the (first) vice president is designated president-elect because they are expected to progress to the position of president. Clubs and councils may adopt this practice and incorporate it into their own bylaws but it is not mandatory under international bylaws.

At each level there is an appointed officer known as the parliamentarian whose purpose is to ensure that correct parliamentary procedure is applied according to the relevant parliamentary authority. This is either Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised or the parliamentary authority of the country where the meetings are held.


Local clubs[edit]

Local POWERtalk clubs are the backbone of the organization. Usually they meet on a fortnightly basis and each meeting has a theme. The emphasis of the training is on learn by doing. New members are given the support they need to progress at their own pace and to build up gradually from simply reading aloud to giving speeches and presentations.

As they progress members can take on different roles such as timer, topics leader or programme chairman. Each assignment is evaluated to explain to the member what the evaluator felt they did well and how they can improve.

Members can develop leadership skills by taking office on the club board and eventually by progressing to take office as other levels.

The accreditation programme (see below) provides a structured way for members to work through projects and attain lasting recognition for their accomplishments.

Non-local (cyber) clubs[edit]

Where a member has moved away or their club has disbanded they can become a member-at-large. While they have opportunities to attend council and region activities and perhaps occasional club meetings at clubs outside their local area they lack the benefits of club membership. An alternative is to join a non-local club.

Non-local clubs meet less frequently but may meet together at a central location for a full weekend. In between they have meetings by correspondence brought together into a newsletter. Since the correspondence is largely (but not necessarily exclusively) by e-mail these clubs are sometimes referred to as ‘cyber clubs’.

Members are expected to join a local club where one exists but a member may belong to more than one club and therefore a member can belong to both a local and a non-local club.

If a prospective member finds that there is no local club in their area they may wish to join a non-local club until such times as a local club can be established.

Zenith clubs[edit]

POWERtalk International has a Zenith Programme for secondary level students (13 years +) which is based on the proven training methods used with adult clubs in coaching in effective speaking.

POWERtalk International’s Junior Zenith Programme for primary and intermediate level students (9 – 12 years) is tutored by a POWERtalk Zenith Trainer who coaches students in oral language and listening skills.

Accreditation programme[edit]

The accreditation programme is voluntary but it serves as a record of achievement for those who undertake it. It consists of five course programme and on completion of each level the member is entitled to use the relevant post-nominal designation.

Projects to be undertaken are included in the master manual that is available for free on the POWERtalk International website. While participants will normally enter at Level One and proceed sequentially through the program, they may elect to change the order in which they present some assignments. Those who do not meet the required standards for each assignment may expect to have to repeat until a satisfactory degree of excellence is attained.

While participants may choose to complete only selected portions of the program, formal recognition will be given only to members who satisfactorily complete the requirements as follows:

Level 1: Effective Communicator (EC)
Level 2: Proficient Communicator (PC)
Level 3: Skilled Communicator (SC)
Level 4: Accomplished Communicator (AC)
Level 5: Distinguished Communicator (DC)

Short courses[edit]

Clubs with suitably qualified and trained members offer the POWERtalk Short Course. Run in two-hour sessions weekly for six weeks, these are intensive practical classes for corporate and community groups as well as individuals. Short course attendees received the resources and benefits of members and may choose to remain members of their local club without further fees or dues. In areas without clubs, attendees are given support and resources to form a local club.

Fellows of ITC[edit]

The highest accolade the organization can award is Fellow of ITC. Fellows may represent the international board as trainers in their own region when no member of the international board is able to attend. As such Fellows present POWERtalk ‘train the trainers’ sessions and certify the trainers for the POWERtalk short course. Fellows may also introduce new training programmes at their own region conferences.

Fellows try to ensure that training is of a consistently high standard. In order to become a fellow a member has undergo a rigorous assessment at convention involving presenting a workshop, giving a presentation to the assessors and answering questions on the POWERtalk International Programme and the functioning of their own division and region.

In non-convention years an international training weekend is held and candidates may undergo assessment at this event.


Speech contests[edit]

Speech contests are held at club, council, region and international levels. Winners progress to the next stage of the competition. No international contest is held if there is no convention but region winners in non-convention years may progress to the international contest in the following year. For speakers whose native language is not English there is a ‘cosmopolitan’ speech contest at convention. The cosmopolitan contest is conducted in English in a similar fashion to the main international contest but anyone whose first language or main language of education is English is explicitly barred from entering.

International writing contest[edit]

The annual writing contest has three categories: fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Members can compete in any or all of these categories. Members compete initially at region level and winning entries are submitted to the international contest chairman.

Fiction and non-fiction entries have to be 500-1500 words in length. Poems are required to be 10-32 lines long.

Other contests[edit]

Other contests may be held at any level of the organization ranging from one-hundred-word short stories competitions to table-topic contests to debates.


Formation as International Toastmistress Clubs[edit]

June 25, 1938 is considered to be the origin of International Toastmistress Clubs (from which POWERtalk International and International Training in Communication has developed), but actually the beginning reached farther back, more than ten years before when clubs for women around California were organized similar to Toastmasters International. In 1935, Mrs Amy Gulick put out a call for women interested in forming a Women’s Oral Expression Club and Ernestine White attended the meeting.

Ernestine's husband George was instrumental in assisting Ralph Smedley in forming the first Toastmaster Club in San Francisco. Many of the wives of Toastmasters would accompany their husbands to meetings and Ernestine was no exception. It was at one of those meetings that the desk clerk at the YWCA suggested they form a group of their own. Ernestine immediately acted on this suggestion and a woman’s group was formed.

Smedley suggested she go international. Early in 1938, George who had now become a patent attorney, prepared incorporation papers which were filed with the secretary of state in California. Ernestine was chosen temporary chairman (later first president).

In 1938 the realization of her dream began to take shape. On December 16, 1938 Charter No. 1 was issued to the San Francisco Club. The first International Toastmistress's assembly took place on August 11, 1939 where she was presented with a gavel that had been used by the vice president of the United States[citation needed].

The ITC motto “to love our language and use it with grace and facility” was approved and accepted by the membership in 1940 during the convention held in Santa Barbara, California. In 1942, the annual speech contest was inaugurated. Regional conferences came into existence in 1943. Ernestine White died on January 22, 1943 at the age of 34.

Expansion beyond the United States[edit]

By 1946, the first Canadian club had been formed in Victoria, BC. The same year, the first club in Scotland was formed. In 1949, the first club in Japan was chartered. Also, in 1949, a central office was established in Huntington Park, California. In 1970, as the organization continued to grow, a permanent international headquarters was located at Downey, California where it remained until 1981.

The first executive director, Muriel Bryant accepted that post on July 1, 1977. In 1978, she developed and promoted a fund-raising programme through which the organization raised enough money to acquire a new 4,400-square-foot (410 m2) building located in Anaheim, California.

Staff moved into the new quarters in June, 1981. Headquarters remained there until June 2003 .when the administration of POWERtalk International was moved to Tauranga, New Zealand.

In the beginning, the ITC magazine was edited by volunteers. Then, Jeanne Harris became the first editor employed. In 1974, Joann Levy was hired and served until 1999. The magazine was called TOASTMISTRESS. In 1986 the name was changed to ITC Communicator.

The first flag ceremony was conducted at the 1954 convention. In 1959, the coined word “Toastmistress” became better known through its appearance in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In 1960, the first pledge was accepted. At Convention 2000 the wording of the official pledge was revised. In 1970, the Apollo 13 astronauts carried three Toastmistress seals on its trip to the moon.[2]

Australia experienced such rapid membership growth that the first region outside of North America was established there in 1969. In 1978 the original region was divided into two regions. The Bangkok Club was chartered in 1957, the Hong Kong club in November 1960; and the Kowloon Club in April 1972. Similar growth patterns in the 70’s resulted in regions in Great Britain, New Zealand, Japan, Iceland, and South Africa thus strengthening the international organization and broadening the scope of its influence.

In the 80’s and 90’s, regions were established in Europe and Greece.

In 1968, the first ITC Convention outside of the United States was held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Since that time, conventions have been held in New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Japan, the Bahamas and South Africa.

In March 1971, Pat Nixon, wife of the then president of the United States was granted honorary membership in ITC.[3][4] At the 1973 Convention, the bylaws were amended to provide that clubs might not discriminate on the basis of sex.

Also at that convention the method of electing international officers by preferential ballot was adopted. At the 1975 convention held in Toronto, Canada, The World Bylaws & Structure Study Committee outlined major changes, the most extensive in the history of the organization. When the convention was over, the membership had established a new structure for the administration.

The Accreditation Program was adopted at the 1980 Convention. In June 1981 membership was at its highest at 25,484 members world-wide.

International Training in Communication[edit]

During the 1984 Convention in Dallas, Texas, members voted to change the name of the organization. On August 1, 1985, the name of the organization was changed to International Training in Communication, retaining the same initials while bearing a name more suitable for an organization open to both sexes.

In 1988, a special ITC award was made to the Australian speaker of the House of Representatives and was hung in the Federal House of Parliament[citation needed].

In 1989, the first club in China was chartered one week before the Tiananmen Square eruption and the club was forced to operate underground. Many members around the world adopted the club and sent monetary help because they were having a difficult time paying dues and getting supplies[citation needed].

During the 2002 Convention, members voted to hold Biennial Conventions and elect officers for two year terms, starting in 2003.

With the move from Anaheim to New Zealand in June 2003, it was prohibitively difficult to transfer all the ITC museum pieces and they have all been archived at the main Anaheim Library, including the Ernestine White trophy.


The move to New Zealand had been prompted by escalating administration costs and involved contracting out the administration of the organization. Paper mailings were replaced by the use of e-mail. The board set out to ensure “360° communication” through a chain of communication liaison officers (CLOs) at each level.

At the 2007 convention the then international president, Terrie Baxter, announced that ITC was adopting the brand name POWERtalk International for marketing purposes. The magazine, which had become too costly to produce, was to be re-introduced under the name ‘POWERtalking’. This time however it would be distributed electronically. Those without e-mail could receive a copy printed by other club members or printed professionally using artwork provided by headquarters.

The new logo design was unveiled. It had been described by the original artist as follows:

“The icon provides a sense of movement both outwards and inwards, reflecting the communication channel of sending and receiving, speaking and listening, writing and reading. It has a modern international feeling, without reverting to the more old-fashioned physical globe. The general feel is businesslike, with colours which suggest modernity and freshness. The caps typeface of “POWER” echoes the name, with its sense of size and strength, while the lower case “talk” emphasises simplicity, clarity and forward movement.”

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://convention2013.blogspot.co.uk/
  2. ^ Phillips, Alice: This is Toastmistress (Second Edition), page 60. International Toastmistress Clubs, 1983.
  3. ^ Phillips, op. cit., page 63.
  4. ^ Pacific Telephone Magazine, page 30. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, 1972

External links[edit]