YES YOU CAN SPEAK VS
“Toastmasters is awesome for so many reasons, yet for those who have a deeply rooted, shaking-in-your-boots fear of public speaking, it may not be the best place to start."
~ Lynn Kirkham, Founder of Yes You Can Speak
A Personal Message About Toastmasters from Lynn
I was in a San Francisco Bay Area Toastmasters club for seven years, serving as president for 5 of those years. I’m a big fan of Toastmasters and have facilitated workshops for both beginning and advanced speakers at their large conferences.
In my experience, Toastmasters is excellent in many areas, like helping club members run meetings, structuring a Toastmasters speech, and supporting its members to step into club roles as they progress.
Toastmasters clubs are friendly communities made up of your peers. It's important to know that they don't have professional speaker coaching, so if you have a very intense fear of public speaking or social anxiety, it may be a lot for your nervous system to handle until you're more comfortable in the spotlight.
More Toastmaster Benefits
What People Tell Us They Like About Toastmasters
YOU GET FREQUENT PRACTICE SPEAKING IN FRONT OF A GROUP
Toastmasters groups meet weekly, ongoing. You have opportunities to speak at every meeting, which is fantastic.
It’s a structured, formal way to practice in a format that has been used since the 1920s. What's great is that you'll speak in a friendly environment with lower stakes than when communicating at work, a community event, or on a stage. Chances are you'll develop different aspects of your delivery over time.
YOU GET DIRECT FEEDBACK
At Toastmasters, you receive immediate, candid feedback from evaluators and audience members, clarifying what you did well and suggesting improvements.
It may make you cringe to hear criticisms—but it’s super-valuable and something you may not otherwise get. Plus, it’s intended to help you, not to bash you.
It’s a low cost to join, at about $10 per month.
It’s a place to practice with other speakers who are also learning.
It’s common for people to attend every week or two for a few years or longer.
You don’t need to wait for a class to start; meetings are always happening.
There are thousands of online and in-person clubs with different “personalities,” so if one doesn’t suit you, you can switch to another club easily.
Conferences are scheduled twice yearly with expert presenters and educational sessions.
Some large companies have a Toastmasters chapter for their employees.
If your goal is to earn awards at speech competitions, Toastmasters has competitions that begin at your local level and progress to international.
What People Don't Love About Toastmasters
👉 There’s no staying out of the spotlight
You may attend a Toastmasters meeting to observe from the back of the room, but chances are you'll be asked to stand up and introduce yourself at the beginning and again at the end to give a review, so there's no hiding. Being caught off guard can be terrifying if you aren’t ready to jump in and speak yet.
👉 Toastmasters doesn't have a public speaking instructor or coach
Instead of having a coach, there are manuals with specific rules that everyone studies, and club meetings are formal with strict timelines and protocols. Once you progress, you will begin to mentor others in the club.
👉 You may not be able to practice your upcoming work presentation
You get assigned a framework and time block that you must adhere to for your speeches to count towards your presentation requirements. For example, one talk must use a story; another talk must use a prop that may or may not relate to work or a presentation you're preparing.
👉 Impromptu Speaking
During the Table Topics portion of the meeting, speakers will be chosen to answer a question they might know nothing about. You'll have just over a minute to formulate your response and deliver it with poise. Some people who haven't mastered the art of impromptu speaking yet say they'd prefer to hide under the table during this part of the meeting.
👉 Toastmasters requires a significant time investment
Each of your presentations will be 5-7 minutes long, which could take several hours to plan, write and deliver with precision. Once you understand how the club works, you will be asked to take a leadership role as President, Vice President, Secretary, or another formal position.
In addition, there is a constant need for enrollment and community outreach because the club needs to maintain a certain number of members and enthusiasm, or the club may dissolve. Many come to Toastmasters thinking they will only show up for an hour a week, but it requires much more time than that.
👉 Memorization of your speech
Often, speakers will memorize their Toastmasters speech to be sure they finish within the allocated time. If you deeply fear public speaking and forget your words on stage mid-presentation, memorized speeches compound the problem because when your mind goes blank, you may need to start over from the beginning. Lynn has actually witnessed this extraordinarily stressful and humiliating situation multiple times.
If your goals are to develop your leadership presence and connect or master your ability to speak impromptu and easily handle audience questions—memorized presentations won’t usually provide the outcome you're looking for and could leave the audience feeling uninspired.
👉 The critiques can be overwhelming for someone who’s not yet a calm, confident speaker
People tell us how much they dreaded being critiqued by the audience at the end of their speeches, making it difficult to deliver their message authentically.
Evaluators are encouraged to comment on things the speaker needs to improve upon, even if the speech was fantastic. During a speech, often the audience has their heads down, taking feedback notes, which makes it harder for the speaker to engage or feel seen and heard.
During each meeting, an "Um-counter" will focus on counting your filler words like "Umm, so, like," etc.
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN YOUR LOCAL TOASTMASTER CLUB,
but you’re utterly terrified of public speaking, consider taking our Inspired Speaker Program first. You’ll eliminate your anxiety about speaking, and learn how to confidently connect with your audiences. Then Toastmasters will help you practice speaking and refine your content and delivery.