Toastmasters meetings provide many opportunities for members to practice their public speaking and leadership skills. When you attend a meeting as a guest, you will have an opportunity to introduce yourself to the group at the beginning of the meeting but will not be expected to do anything too scary. We also traditionally ask our guests to give feedback at the end of the meeting about what they enjoyed, or found interesting.
At a typical Menifee Toastmasters meeting, the structure works like this over the course of one hour:
- Pledge of Allegiance
- The club President starts the meeting by welcoming any guests.
- Joke Master: At most meetings, we have an opportunity for someone to open with a joke.
- The Toastmaster of the Day takes over from the President, introduces members playing supporting roles, and acts as the master of ceremonies.
- Formal Speeches: A typical meeting includes up to three speeches of 5-7 minutes each, although some can be longer or shorter. New members select a “Pathway” from the Toastmasters online learning curriculum, beginning with an Ice Breaker (where they tell us about themselves) and then progress through speeches that focus on techniques like the use of body language and vocal variety.
- Table Topics: one of the highlights of every meeting, challenging members to practice their impromptu speaking skills.
- Evaluations: For each formal speech, another member delivers an evaluation including both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement.
- Awards: At every meeting, we give awards in categories such as best Speech, best Table Topics, and best Evaluator.
Things that take getting used to
Throughout the meeting, the member playing the role of Ah Counter notes whenever a speaker uses a “crutch word” like “ah” or “um” — the little meaningless sounds we make when we’re not sure what to say. The Ah Counter also presents a tally of these “offenses” at the end of the meeting. Don’t worry, you will not be subjected to this as a guest. The point of this exercise is to help members eliminate these nervous utterances, which tend to distract from the substance of a speech. Most of us do this more than we realize, particularly when we are getting started.
One of the most challenging, but also most useful, parts of Toastmasters is the impromptu speaking challenge, Table Topics. On other occasions, members are called on to answer slightly different questions on the same theme. Either way, Table Topics is one of the ways we learn to think on our feet. That’s a powerful skill in life and business, not just in public speaking.
We would love to have you join us, Thursdays at noon. Sharpen your mind and your tongue by spending your lunch hour with us once a week to speak, listen, and laugh.