A Typical Programme
The evening normally consists of a number of different parts. These are: Introductions, an education session, table topics, prepared speeches, and evaluations. Each of these is explained below.
The Toastmaster for the evening will introduce the evening, explaining the format and outlining the programme of events.
Sometimes we have an opportunity for one of the more experienced speakers to speak for typically 10 minutes on a subject related to public speaking. These sessions are informative and entertaining and of value even to experienced speakers.
Table topics develops impromptu speaking skills. The Table Topics Master will select a theme, and invite members of the club to speak on a topic for a maximum of two minutes. You have no preparation whatsoever, so this is a good exercise to learn to think on the spot. Although initially quite daunting, as your experience grows so it becomes easier. Good impromptu speaking is particularly useful in many aspects of life, such as in work meetings, and we offer a safe environment in which to develop that skill. Visitors are not expected to contribute to this part of the evening (unless they have expressed a wish to do so).
We typically have three or four prepared speeches each evening. These speeches may last from 5 to 20 minutes. They are based on speaking projects in the development manuals and would be focused on a particular aspect such as 'Body Language' or 'Using props'. Your first speech is the 'ice breaker', a four to six minute speech about yourself that will introduce you to the other members. After that there are a number of categories of talks specified in the Toastmaster handbook. All speeches are timed.
This is where we provide advice on your development as a speaker. Every speech is evaluated by another member of the club. The purpose of an evaluation is to provide friendly, insightful feedback which will help you to improve, and at the same time give you more confidence as a public speaker by pointing out your plus points and areas to improve upon.
Often this is provided by a guest from another Toastmaster club and this is, in effect, an evaluation of the whole evening. The main focus here is on the evaluators who are evaluated themselves in this section. This helps them learn a skill which is in itself important.
Another part of the feedback process is the ballot. Everyone present (including guests) can vote for the best speaker, evaluator and table topic speaker for the evening. An award is made to the winner (with the most votes) in each category. It is a matter of great pride to win one of these awards for the first time, and an affirmation of your development as a speaker.
We also encourage members to write a brief private evaluation of each speaker, to be delivered directly to the speaker in question.
Twice a year the club runs speaking competitions among the members. Two representatives then compete in the area contest, and then steadily through the various stages to the International contest in the US to become world champion. The standard of these speeches is of the highest order and an inspiration to all of us.