Toastmasters International

Ralph C. SmedleyToastmasters International is a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership. The first Toastmasters club was established on October 22, 1924, in Santa Ana, California, by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, who conceived and developed the idea of helping others to speak more effectively. More clubs were formed, and Toastmasters International was incorporated under California law on December 19, 1932.

Toastmasters International’s business and services are administered by its World Headquarters, located in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. It employs no paid promoters or instructors. It has no salaried staff except the Executive Director and World Headquarters staff, who provide services to the clubs and Districts.

How Toastmasters works.

At Toastmasters, members learn by speaking to groups and working with others in a supportive environment. A typical Toastmasters club is made up of 20 to 30 people who meet once a week for about an hour. Each meeting gives everyone an opportunity to practice:

Conducting meetings. Meetings usually begin with a short business session which helps members learn basic meeting procedures. Giving impromptu speeches. Members present one-to two-minute impromptu speeches on assigned topics. Presenting prepared speeches. Three or more members present speeches based on projects from the Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Program manuals. Projects cover such topics as speech organization, voice, language, gestures, and persuasion.

Offering constructive evaluation. Every prepared speaker is assigned an evaluator who points out speech strengths and offers suggestions for improvement.

The Tools You Use

Upon joining a Toastmasters club, each new member receives a variety of manuals and resources on speaking. Members also have access to other books as well as audio and video cassettes on speaking and leading. They also receive the award-winning The Toastmaster, a monthly magazine that offers the latest insights on speaking and leadership techniques.

Toastmasters and Leadership

Leadership cannot be learned in a day. It takes practice. In Toastmasters members build leadership skills by organizing and conducting meetings and motivating others to help them. Club leadership roles and a leadership development program also offer opportunities to learn and practice. Just as Toastmasters members learn to speak simply by speaking, they learn leadership by leading.

Company Benefits

A company’s success also depends on communication. Employees face an endless exchange of ideas, messages, and information as they deal with one another and with customers day after day. How well they communicate can determine whether a company quickly grows into an industry leader or joins thousands of other businesses mired in mediocrity.

Toastmasters provides the tools that enable employees to become effective communicators and leaders all at a very low cost.

Toastmasters training helps employees:

  • give better sales presentations hone their management skills work better with fellow employees effectively develop and present ideas offer constructive criticism
  • accept criticism more objectively

Toastmasters produces results. Around the world more than three million men and women of all ages and occupations have benefited from Toastmasters training, and more than one thousand corporations, community groups, universities, associations, and government agencies now use Toastmasters training.

Community Benefits

Toastmasters has helped many members in their community service activities. Using the speaking and leadership skills developed in Toastmasters, people have become more active in business, churches, and service and charity organizations. Toastmasters members are able to organize activities, conduct meetings, and speak in public as their organization’s representative. Some even become active in local, state or national government.

Brief History of the Toastmasters Program

In October 1924, a group of men assembled by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, U.S.A., forming a club “to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.” The group took the name “Toastmasters.” Soon men in other communities and states asked for permission and help to start their own Toastmasters clubs. By 1930, a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the many clubs and to provide a standard program. When a speaking club in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, expressed interest in forming a Toastmasters club, the group became known as Toastmasters International.

For many years the “Home Office” of Toastmasters International was based in a series of rented office spaces. In 1962, the Toastmasters International staff moved to its first World Headquarters building in Santa Ana, California, not far from where the first club began. By the late 1980s, however, this building could no longer adequately house the increased staff needed to provide services to the growing number of Toastmasters. In 1990 World Headquarters relocated to a new building in Rancho Santa Margarita, approximately 20 miles south of Santa Ana, designed to accommodate Toastmasters International’s expected growth well into the 21st century.

Toastmasters International’s success and growth is due in large part to the continued development of its educational programs. The organization has come a long way since the first speech manual, Basic Training, was developed more than 50 years ago. The current manual, now called the Communication and Leadership Program, was most recently updated in 1996.

In addition to the various educational materials available through the Toastmasters International Supply Catalog, members receive the monthly publication, The Toastmaster magazine. Club and district officers receive a bimonthly publication, TIPS, and district officers receive District Newsletter each month.

Since Toastmasters began, more than three million men and women have benefited from the organization’s communication and leadership programs. Toastmasters International enters the new century as the undisputed world leader in public speaking training, with over 10,000 clubs and more than 200,000 members in approximately 80 countries. In the years to come, more people than ever will benefit from Toastmasters leadership and education.


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