A small room above Florin bar in the center of the Dutch city Utrecht. I am visiting a very lively public speaking club which is a part of an International organization called ‘Toastmasters‘. Just in a couple of months I will become a member of the club and will deliver my first speech.
This happens quite often – you have no idea about some phenomena, then you see a small advertisement printed on a piece of paper and pinned on the wall next to the coffee machine in your office and this phenomenon starts to jump on you from all the sides: a lot of people you know are members already, you see people mentioning it in the internet all over the place, coaches recommend you to go to Toastmasters. And just like that you are already sitting, trembling and waiting to come out on the stage to give your first speech.
What is Toastmasters?
Toastmasters public speaking club was founded in the US about one hundred years ago and today there are clubs all over the world (about 10 in Russia and Ukraine and since 2019 there is a club in Belarus).
Toastmasters is all about the practice of public speaking. If to put it in a couple of words you do a speech, club members give you feedback and next time you try to be better.
If to detail it a bit more, every meeting of the club is organized by several people who pick up different roles. There is also an online platform with some guidelines, competitions (also international), a printed magazine, club events, between club events and different options for participation. Next to the prepared speeches, there is something called ‘Table Topics”. These are unprepared, short speeches (1-3 minutes) for a topic that is given to you right there on the stage. The overall meeting takes about 2.5 hours (but this, of course, differs by the club).
Members of the club are people who pay the club fee. Guests or visitors (anyone who wants to learn about the club) can come several times before deciding to join the club. I visited one club in Amsterdam as a guest. Everything is the same, but everything is different. Members of the club do leave a mark on the entire atmosphere of course.
Why people join the Toastmasters club?
I heard many answers from different people and all of them have a lot in common: not to be afraid of public speaking, not to be standing there with a paper in the trembling hands, not to be experiencing a nervous break-down five minutes before coming to the stage. However, I have also heard answers that stood out: to become a stand-up comedian or to have drinks in a nice company on Friday evenings (you would wonder is it a realistic wish? Well, it is, because meetings take place right above the Florin bar and you can imagine where they end).
How quick to start giving speeches in the club after you joined?
How quickly should you start with speeches after you joined the club? I would recommend it as soon as possible, but there are no rules for this. You go at your own speed. You can join meetings, take facilitating meeting roles (Timekeeper, Ah-counter, Grammarian, Table Topic Master и так далее) or you can just join meetings for some time and do not take roles.