Toastmasters International comes from very humble beginnings. It originally began in 1903 in an Illinois branch of YMCA. Toastmasters founder Ralph Smedley, then the education director of this YMCA branch, ran a series of speaking clubs which quickly led to the realisation that there was a need for training in speech. As Smedley continued to develop the club he struggled for a name until the general secretary, George Sutton, suggested ‘Toastmasters’. Smedley and the remainder of his committee loved the name and the club snowballed into a roaring success.
Just over a century after its inception, Toastmasters is a worldwide network of clubs with more than 352,000 members. The Spinnakers Speakers, an affiliate of Toastmasters, is just one of 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. A non-profit educational organisation, Toastmasters have helped over four million people, boasting over 100,000 volunteers worldwide.
It’s not a coincidence that Toastmasters and Spinnaker Speakers have continued to go from strength to strength. What is unique about the Toastmasters experience is that it’s highly beneficial for any person, at any point in their life, whether it’s public or private.
‘Commit to continuing that change, allow your fellow Toastmasters to help you change whilst also helming you to change. If each of us commits to that change, we truly will progress.’
The Toastmasters experience takes an active approach to improving communication. Communication forms the foundations of everything we do, whether it’s the need to confidently put across your ideas in the workplace or talking one-on-one with close friends and loved ones. Taken at your own pace, the classes combine practice with constructive feedback in a nurturing environment to improve how we communicate with one another.
The Spinnaker Speakers, the Portsmouth branch/affiliate of Toastmasters, meet twice monthly, on the second and fourth Mondays of every month at St. Luke’s on Greetham Street in Southsea.
Members attend and perform prepared speeches as well as having the option to participate in the Table Topics segment of the meeting, where the speechmaker makes an impromptu speech. Members are also encouraged to offer evaluations and feedback to fellow members making speeches.
‘Commit to continuing that change, allow your fellow Toastmasters to help you change whilst also helping you to change. If each of us commits to that change, we truly will progress,’ states the Spinnakers Speakers club president Wendy Benson in their most recent newsletter. The ethos of Toastmasters advocates this kind of solidarity in all aspects of its work. They understand that public speaking and one-to-one interaction can be very daunting. One of the biggest steps in overcoming that fear is how Toastmasters create an environment that helps the speaker appreciate and accentuate their strengths whilst simultaneously pinpointing weaknesses and improving them.
The beauty of Toastmasters is that it’s far more than improving your ability to make a speech. There are so many different layers to the Toastmasters experience – planning, leading, listening, the list goes on. As well as improving your speechmaking, Toastmasters offers an intricate pyramid of steps and lessons that can be applied to many different aspects of everyday life. And in the advent of a new year, is there a better time to make a change for the better?
If the Spinnaker Speakers’ culture appeals to you, the club will be holding an open house meeting on Monday 15th January from 7.15pm – 9.30pm at St. Luke’s – the perfect opportunity to ease yourself into the group and get a great feel for what the Speakers and the Toastmasters are aiming to achieve.
Feel free to contact the Spinnaker Speakers on their website or via their social media platforms for more information on how to get involved.