Like many people I know, I’ve spent 99% of my time since March, when we first started working remotely, at home. I now know every imperfection on the four walls of my room and the dog-walking schedule of all my pet-owning neighbors (I have a large window in my room that serves as an excellent observation point).

I have also been practicing public speaking – it seems like more from my room stuck at home than when I was out there in the world actually seeing people, or the “public”, in person. And I don’t mean I talk to my reflection in the mirror (although, sometimes I, in fact, do). Back in May I signed up for a club I’d heard a lot about and was happy to learn they were holding their sessions online via zoom now! The club is Toastmasters.

Toastmasters is an international organization that operates public speaking clubs all over the world. It started 96 years ago in 1924 in California, U.S. (people have always wanted to be sharp!). Now it counts more than 357,000 club members in 143 countries. It aims to improve people’s communication, public speaking and leadership skills. 

I am a member of the Lone Star Toastmasters of Washington D.C. club. We have about 15-20 members and guests (a very inspiring and supportive bunch!) who meet every Wednesday for an hour. We have a clear structure for each meeting and different kinds of rotating roles where everyone has a chance to practice speaking, communicating, and leading. 

Toastmaster of the day acts as a host of the meeting. They choose the meeting’s theme, email participants in advance to remind them about their roles or find volunteers to fill up missing roles, and facilitates the meeting.

Speakers (we usually have two speakers each meeting) present their prepared 5-7 minute speeches. 

Evaluators provide constructive and encouraging feedback on speakers’ speeches.

Grammarian takes note of incorrect grammar, counts the number of filler and crutch words, and marks the outstanding use of words or figures of speech by meeting participants.

Timer monitors time for each part of the meeting and each speaker.

General Evaluator shares his observations and provides feedback on everything that takes place during the meeting, including highlights on how each participant performed their role.

Table Topic Master prepares a set of questions based on the theme of the meeting for participants to practice their impromptu speaking skills. 

You’re welcome to check the club out as a guest. You’ll have a lot of fun! Register on Eventbrite here or send an email to lonestartoastmasters@gmail.com.

Thumbnail photo by Alexandre Pellaes on Unsplash