We love visitors to our club. Anyone is welcome to attend our meetings as a visitor, and there is no cost unless you decide to become a member. You aren’t expected to do anything really scary, although you may be offered the chance to do an impromptu speech if you are feeling really brave. We usually invite our visitors to give feedback at the end of the meeting about what they enjoyed, or found interesting. Why not read a bit more about us and come along to our next meeting?
The following explains a little of what we do at our club and what Toastmasters is all about.
The Mission of a Toastmasters Club
The mission of a Toastmasters Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self confidence and personal growth.
Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. It has more than 332,000 members in 15,400 clubs across 135 countries.
By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, leading teams and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, leaders emerge from the Toastmasters program.
Our Club prides itself on not just learning to present to an audience but to do so in a friendly, comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Our goal is not just to improve our speaking and leadership skills but to have fun, enjoy ourselves and help our fellow members at the same time.
When and where we meet
We meet every second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the The County Constitutional Club (St Albans) Limited, 29 Ridgmont Road, St Albans, Herts AL1 3AG. Our meetings start promptly at 7:30pm and usually finish by 9:40pm.
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 up to 20 people who meet once a fortnight for about two hours.
Each meeting gives everyone an opportunity to practice:
- Giving impromptu speeches. Members present one-to-two minute impromptu speeches on assigned topics.
- Presenting prepared speeches. Around three or four members present speeches based on projects from the Toastmasters International manuals, starting with the Competent Communication manual. Projects cover such topics as speech organisation, 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. Impromptu speeches are also evaluated.
Our regular meeting usually follows the same structure in which all of the roles are voluntarily filled by members. Members gain not just by speaking but also by observing others and listening to the positive constructive feedback given. See the final page for an example of a meeting agenda.
Toastmasters and Leadership
Leadership cannot be learned in a day. It takes practice. In Toastmasters, members build leadership skills by organising 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.
How much does it cost to join?
You are very welcome to come along to West Herts Speakers as a guest as often as you like. While you are a guest, you will get to see how the club works, see, hear and meet some great speakers and even participate in Table Topics (impromptu speaking!). You will get most value by joining the club and participating in the Competent Communicator and Leadership programs. The club is affiliated to Toastmasters International, but funded and run by our members. We would love you to join West Herts Speakers – and this is a simple guide to the process.
- Complete an application form: You can download a form from this website, which you should complete and hand to the Vice President for Membership (or any other club officer).
- Pay membership fees: There are a number of choices for payment of fees:
- Online banking. Please contact one of the officers for the bank details and put your name as the reference when making payment.
- By cash or cheque (payable to ‘West Herts Speakers’) handed in with your application form.
The fee that you pay as a new member is dependent upon the month in which you join the club as follows:
New member pays
What you will get in return for joining?
Membership of the greatest and largest personal development organisation in the world! There are suggested paths through the education programme with awards to keep you on track and motivated to keep improving. The pinnacle of the Toastmasters experience is to become a ‘Distinguished Toast Master’ (DTM), but this takes a lot of dedication. You can find out more about the Toastmaster Education program on the Toastmasters International website here: www.toastmasters.org/Resources/Education-Program.
There are also regular contests that allow you to experience competing against members of other clubs.
As a member, you will receive a New Member Pack that comprises of a ‘Competent Communicator manual’ (this contains details and tips for the first ten speeches) and a ‘Competent Leadership’ manual. If you don’t receive the New Member Pack or have any other queries about membership, please contact the Vice President for Membership.
You will also receive the monthly Toastmaster magazine. Allow around six to eight weeks for this to commence as it takes a while for you to be added onto the mailing list and it is shipped from the US.
To help you in those early days and especially in the preparation of your first few speeches an experienced member of the club should be assigned to you as Mentor. Please feel free to contact them should you have concerns or would like clarification on anything relating to your involvement in the club.
We look forward to seeing you on a regular basis at club meetings and you can be assured of our support. We encourage you to take an active part in meetings as soon as possible as it is only by participation that you really improve your skills and overcome the nervousness that we all experience at first.
The tools you use
Upon joining a Toastmasters Club, each new member receives a variety of manuals and resources 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.
You can log in and sign up for meetings on the official UK Toastmaster system called easySPEAK: www.westherts.toastmasterclub.org/. Members can use this to keep track of their progress, sign up for meeting roles and speeches and contact other members.
A typical West Herts Speakers Toastmasters meeting agenda looks something like this:
- President: The Club President (or presiding officer) calls the meeting to order, introduces the Club mission and welcomes guests.
- Toastmaster: The Toastmaster of the day leads the meeting, calling on the various roles in the correct order, and maintains the time constraints of the meeting. They will introduce the theme of the meeting if one has been assigned. The Toastmaster will:
- Open the meeting by introducing each of the supporting roles, including inviting the Grammarian to introduce the ‘word of the day’
- Introduce the Table Topics Master (impromptu speeches)
- Introduce each prepared Speaker and Evaluator in turn and call upon the Timekeeper, Ah-Counter, Grammarian and General Evaluator to give their reports.
- Timekeeper: The Timekeeper records the speaking time of each speaker. They are called upon after the completion of each major agenda section – Table Topics, prepared speeches and then evaluations.
- Table Topics (impromptu speaking): The Table Topics Master prepares several questions, based on the theme for the meeting. Toastmasters (and visitors if they are feeling brave) are chosen to speak extemporaneously on the topics, with a timing of 1 to 2 ½ minutes. After the topics are completed, a timekeeper report is requested, and votes are cast for the best Table Topics speaker.
- Speakers: Speakers are introduced to the audience by their respective Evaluator (see below) and present the speeches they have prepared, in the order called by the Toastmaster. Most of the speeches are designed to help the speaker move up the Toastmasters education ladder by fulfilling a specific speech requirement from one of the Toastmasters manuals. Timing depends on the particular project, but the majority of speeches will last between 5 and 7 minutes. Advanced speeches will last longer. Speakers can choose their own topic, although more experienced speakers may give ‘educational’ speeches, some of which are predefined. After the prepared speeches are complete, a timekeeper report is requested and votes are cast for the best prepared speaker. All attendees are invited to provide some brief written feedback to each of the speakers.
- Club Business: the Vice President for Education will invite volunteers for speakers and supporting roles at the next meeting.
- Break: a short hospitality break when you can relax, chat to other members and purchase a drink at the licensed bar.
- Evaluations: Designated Evaluators give evaluations of prepared speeches, providing both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Evaluators use the guidelines and criteria for the speech as provided in the manual which is being used by the speaker, with a timing of 2 to 3 ½ minutes for the evaluation. The Table Topics session will also be evaluated including all of the individual Table Topics speakers, usually with a total timing of 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the number of speakers. After evaluations, a timekeeper report is requested for each evaluator, and votes are cast for the best evaluator.
- Grammarian: The Grammarian will have presented a ‘word of the day’ at the start of the meeting that Toastmasters will try to incorporate into their communications during the meeting. Throughout the meeting, the Grammarian listens for improper or unique use of the English language. When called upon by the Grammarian provides a brief report of the speakers’ use of English, and use of the word of the day.
- Ah Counter: Throughout the meeting, the Ah Counter listens for filler words (e.g. ah, um, so). When called upon, the Ah Counter provides a brief report of the speakers’ uses of these filler words.
- General Evaluator: The General Evaluator delivers a brief evaluation of the overall meeting, giving suggestions for how the club and/or meeting could improve.
- Announcements and Awards Presentation: Control of the meeting will be returned to the President or presiding officer by the Toastmaster. The President will then award the meeting’s best Table Topic Speaker, best Prepared Speaker and best Evaluator.
- Adjourn: The presiding officer calls on guests and unspoken Toastmasters to share their [brief] thoughts on the meeting, makes club announcements, then closes the meeting.