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February 9, 2012 8:46 AM   Subscribe

What should I expect at my first Toastmasters meeting?

My boss suggested that I join Toastmasters. I don't have a fear of public speaking, and I think I'm a slightly better than passable public speaker. But I can always learn to be better, so I'm going to attend my first meeting today. What should I expect as far as what happens during the meeting and how I will be expected to participate?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer to Human Relations (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm the Vice President of PR for my club - Google "City of Columbus Toastmasters" and pick the URL that starts with "cbus" for more info than I can type into my BlackBerry right now.

The very short answer is that you don't have to say anything if you don't want to; they'll probably encourage you to participate in an extemporaneous speaking exercise called "Table Topics," where each person is given a prompt or question and they have 1 to 2 minutes to respond. They may also ask you to:

- sign a guest book
- wear a nametag
- introduce yourself to the group

If you don't like the first group you visit, you can try others - my city has several dozen meeting at various times and in various places.

MeMail me if you want more info than you can possibly use.
posted by SMPA at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2012

Best answer: I've recently joined Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills.

Toastmasters is very structured. There will be the introductory parts, including the Pledge of Allegiance (!), and then Table Topics. After a break, then the full speeches will begin. The speeches are part of a set process that is outlined in a club handbook.

People are timed with both Table Topics and Speeches (there's a warning system), and you do get penalized if you go over your time.

You'll also be asked to vote for who were the best speakers at Table Topics and Speeches. Both the speakers for Table Topics and Speeches are evaluated through a set of criteria that includes making eye contact with the audience, gestures, using the space, etc.--I found that aspect to be particularly useful.

There's also a certain kind of formality (in my opinion, a charming formality but YMMV) that's involved--people will say "Good evening, fellow Toastmasters, honored guests" before speaking.
posted by so much modern time at 9:30 AM on February 9, 2012

What is Toastmasters?
posted by Kabanos at 9:31 AM on February 9, 2012

On the formality thing - that varies. My club doesn't do a lot of the more ceremonial stuff; others are really into it.
posted by SMPA at 9:33 AM on February 9, 2012

I don't know if this happens at all clubs or not, but I know that the one my boss is part of requires you to speak if you're visiting for the first time (presumably at the "Table Topics" rather than a full speech).
posted by asnider at 9:48 AM on February 9, 2012

Different clubs run their mettings in different ways - for example, we don't do the Pledge of Allegiance, but we do recite the Toastmasters mission statement. Our meetings are only 1 hour long, so there is no break, and we have speeches first, then evaluations, then Table Topics.
posted by mogget at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers. I just got back from the meeting (it was a lunch hour meeting). Everyone was very friendly; I introduced myself as members came in. They weren't very formal, and the meeting was structured as so much modern time outlined.

After the beginning formalities (all the introductions of members with roles during the meeting), there was a speaker and table topics segment. I made a little table topics speech, and totally flubbed it, but everyone applauded. Oh yeah, lots of applause: after every introduction, after each speech, after the evaluations.

After the table topics section, there were evaluations and the "ah" counter and timer both reported. I myself had amassed a large number of ahs and ums. They actually had someone counting.

The "ah" counter was also the grammarian and pulled out interesting words/phrases speakers used.

Overall, this was a nice experience. A++++++++++++ Would speak again.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 12:31 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Glad you enjoyed it! Good luck with your Icebreaker. ;)
posted by SMPA at 3:42 PM on February 9, 2012

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