#Toastmasters—The Road Towards Competent Communication (part 2–overview, FAQs)


Toastmasters International club helps you become a better public speaker by taking you through a series of speech projects which build up the various skills that make up an effective speech presentation. This posts gives the overall view of the Toastmasters International educational program with regards to communication skills, and gives details about the first part of the program, that of becoming a Competent Communicator.

1. Toastmasters International Communicator Educational Program—overview

The communication program takes you through four different levels of competency, the basic level (Competent Communicator), and three advanced levels corresponding to the traditional Olympic Games levels of Bronze, Silver, and Gold (see Figure 1 below).

Figure 1.

Communication Educational Program Track Progression–Overview

You have to complete 10 speeches to win the Competent Communicator Award. The advanced levels have the same requirement of 10 speeches, but there are additional requirements for the Advanced Communicator Silver and Gold levels.

The Silver Level requires you two additional special presentations that are on a specific educational theme relating to the Toastmasters program itself. The Gold Level requires only one additional special presentation, but it requires you to be a mentor for a new member of the club while they go through their first three speech projects. The idea is that, while you are advancing your own skills at the advanced level, you are trying to help those who are just starting out in Toastmasters.

Figure 2. Communication Educational Program Track Progression–Details

2. Competent Communicator (basic level)—details

There are 10 speech projects to be completed for the first level of being a Competent Communicator. How it works is that each project is designed to focus on one aspect of making a good speech presentation: organizing it, emphasizing it, and delivering it. Here are the speeches I did for my award, which shows the project title and the actual speech I used to complete each project.

Speech

Project

Title

Subject

1 The Ice Breaker The Power of Language AutobiographicalIntroduction
2 Organize Your Speech Risky Business Introduction to Risk Management
3 Get to the Point Mr. X and Mr. Y National SecurityPolicy
4 How to Say It Sound of Silence Silence as a form of communication
5 Your Body Speaks Eat that Frog—Now! Procrastination andhow to stop It
6 Vocal Variety Garden of WordlyDelights My love of language
7 Research Your Topic Celestial Music Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
8 Visual Aids Map of the Mind Introduction to IntegralTheory
9 Persuade with Power 2 Weeks to Eternity History of Cuban Missile Crisis
10 Inspire Your Audience The Power of Now The Works of Eckhart Tolle

3. Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to complete the 10 speeches you need to get your Competent Communicator award?

Based on the assumptions that a) there are 20 members in a Toastmasters Club, b) there are 3 speeches given per meeting, and c) the club will meet twice a month, it works out that individual member will be able to give about 4 to 6 speeches per year or one every two to three months. At this rate, it will take you between two and two-and-a-half years to complete the requirements for a Competent Communicator award.

Is there are any way to get it done even faster?

Yes, there are three ways to do this, two of which I used to get the award done in less than a year-and-a-half.

a. Fill in for absent members

Each meeting there are three speeches given, but sometimes people will cancel at the last minute because of a sudden illness or they have to work overtime at work on a special project. In this case, one of the club officers will contact members to see if they can fill in for the missing club member. This is why it is vital to at least prepare an outline of your next speech ahead of time. Also you should try to get a draft of the speech completed by the meeting BEFORE the one where you have to give yours. In that way, you can work on polishing the speech in the two weeks you have before your speech is to be given, but in a pinch you can complete the speech on short notice and be able to volunteer to give yours early.

b. Have a Speak-A-Thon meeting

Clubs usually meet twice a month on a specific day of the week, like every second and fourth Tuesday, as in our club. However, there are usually two months out of the year where there is an extra fifth week. Our club has an extra meeting on those months where we dispense with the first portion of the meeting on impromptu speeches and have 5 prepared speeches rather than 3. This gives an additional 10 speeches during the year, which helps the club members get additional opportunities to speak.

c. Do speeches at more than one club

There are an increasing number of Toastmasters International Clubs, and you may have one than one that are in comfortable traveling distance from where you live. In this case, you can either join an additional club and give speeches there, or you can contact the President of your own club and express your desire to give speeches at another club in your area as a “guest speaker”.

One of our club members got her Competent Communicator program done in a single year using this method.

How much does the program cost?

There are two components to membership dues: membership in Toastmasters International, the parent organization, and the dues to your local club that you are applying to. The membership in Toastmasters International is $36 for six months (with additional $1.55 for sales tax if you are in a club in California), and then your own club will have additional club dues to help pay for rental of the club facilities, etc.

How do I choose a club?

Go to www.toastmasters.org, fill in “Club locator” in the search box, and then on the left-hand side there will be a box labeled FIND at the top of which is a square button under the title “Meeting locations”. Press this button and it will take you to a form for you to fill out with information on a) what days you would like to meet, and b) what your location is and how far you are willing to travel to go to the club.

How do I try out a club?

Once you get a list of possible clubs, then go to the websites provided for each individual clubs and see those that are of interest to you. Some clubs are open membership, and others, usually those that are corporate-sponsored clubs for members of the company, are closed membership.

Once you find two or three clubs that interest you, contact the club membership officer or other club officer whose name should be given on the site. Call them and get more information—and then make a date to visit the club!

I found my own club through word of mouth, from two different people I knew who had recently joined a Toastmasters club and were very enthusiastic about it. I figured that if two people independently thought that the club was great, well then, that’s good enough of a recommendation for me.

What should I do when I decide to join a club?

Get the two manuals you will receive and look over the Communicator manual from cover to cover for about half an hour to acquaint yourself with all the resources at the end of the manual, as well as getting a brief overview of all the speeches you need to do.

Then ask a club officer for a mentor who will guide you through the first three speeches in the manual.

Then go through at least the first three speech projects and get an idea of the speech topic you would like to do for each of them and have your mentor review your ideas. Then start within the first two weeks before your next meeting to write a sketch or outline of your first speech, followed by a draft, using the speech manual as your guide in terms of your speech objectives. Your mentor should help you here as well. Perform the speech with notes and time yourself so that it takes you no more than 5 minutes to complete. Here’s where you make editing decisions about what to leave our. Then perform it FIVE TIMES to get it to the point where you perform it smoothly, and you figure out what works out well, and what needs to be changed.

Then you’ll be ready for your first speech, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a Competent Communicator!

One of the most overlooked benefits to being a Toastmaster is not just being a good speaker, but being a good leader. The next post will focus on the other educational track sponsored by Toastmasters International, that of being a Competent Leader.

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