+++ Update +++

See Brian Jenner’s positive tale on Toastmasters and their rituals here. As you can see, my education is complete!

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My piece on Toastmasters has attracted some modest interest, including in the Comments and via LinkedIn. Both Against and For.


I came, I saw, I jumped to conclusions. The whole piece sounded like a commercial, so it was difficult to take it seriously. We may know the right way to behave, but under stress we do what we are accustomed to doing. The strength of Toastmasters is in gradual replacement of bad habits with good ones. No quickie seminar can achieve that.

Toastmasters does indeed have its faults, however, as someone who has attended one meeting at one chapter, you, Charles Crawford, are in no position to know what those are. Even food critics eat at a restaurant three times, with guests, prior to writing a review. Did you at least look at their manuals? … What was most shocking to me though was that you position yourself as a “speechwriter of sorts”. Please, please find a good editor before you make that claim again. The irony was thick enough to cut with a knife.

To attend only one meeting does not allow a visitor to appreciate the effort that speakers, evaluators, all meeting participants put forth in a club. The members’ commitment, progress and self-paced learning does not always get noticed by one unfamiliar with the process. It is not fluff but considerable work and fun. Perhaps you should join a club and actually participate. You might like It!

I was shy and terrified to speak in public when I joined Toastmasters. With the warm mentoring and support I received there I went on to become a professional speaker. I have now spoken to thousands of people and it never would have happened without Toastmasters.

It’s important to note that the OP is only qualified to critique the TM club he attended. Whilst it’s fair to say that this one club is indicative of the organisation it would be an injustice to tar every club with the same brush. I would not be interested in attending any training where the trainer or training organisation used the tactics in this thread to promote their business.

Although not a member myself I know and have worked with clients who are and have gained value experience and knowledge as a result. It may not be for everyone, but I say don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.


I have never done TM, but I must agree with Mr. Crawford with regard to content.

All that said, I really enjoyed your review. All points were correct and you would see virtually the same program at any club throughout the world. Hopefully readers will be inspired to look for a club in their own location and check it out for themselves

I enjoyed Toastmasters the first year (different club) but there was too much process and not enough speaking.

You are right on the money! My take is if it is good for you, it’s good for you. If they really want to learn, sign on with me and we will work together looking at all of the parts of speaking in public for a living.

Toastmasters is the speaking equivalent of community theatre. While TM is fantastic for two things: community and practice, TM does not provide mastery or any real substantive transformation.

Most definitely reflects my feelings on TM.  Very good if you are timid or a nervous speaker and only for a few sessions, then I think you would lose the will to live. Applause!

Therefore what?

Two things stood out for me from my utterly unrepresentative sample that nonetheless seems to follow a strict schema used by TM across the world.

First, there was no discussion at all with the audience(!) about what worked or what didn’t. Lots of rather pernickety pro forma ‘evaluating’, but nothing from those for whom the speech was intended.

Second, the ‘evaluating’ skirted well away from the Content as such – the logic of the ideas in themselves, and their smart (or not) sequencing in the speech. Instead the focus was massively on the Delivery.

The unhappy result was that the two main speeches of the evening that had involved a lot of work by the speakers went substantively unanalysed.

In one case the speaker eloquently said next to nothing. Therefore what?

In the other, the speaker just wasn’t very good at all but trudged home none the wiser as to what was needed to make a big jump in performance. Was that really a good use of an evening?

Basically …if you don’t ‘evaluate’ Content, you can’t show speakers how to structure a speech/presentation well! That means having well organised and perhaps unexpected thoughts that are then delivered powerfully.

If we look only at Delivery in public speaking, we get Death by PowerPoint – millions of people every week around the world ‘face a group and present their ideas’ but BADLY! What a miserable waste of time.

So, question? How in fact to improve?

It’s not that TM doesn’t improve you in many ways. It (probably) does if you attend for long enough! But can the same or even far better results be achieved far more easily?

Let’s say you do 10 TM sessions over six months. That’s a lot of hours including the sessions themselves + travel etc. A good speaking teacher/coach can get you to a notably higher level in (say) six hours, or just one working day. After that you don’t need to ‘practise’ – you just do it! Not quite so social a way of learning, but massively faster.

It does all come down to what you want. Cover the basics? Or get REALLY good?

Which is better a priori? Being the person who gives a good solid ‘safe’ presentation that no-one remembers two minutes later?

Or the person who stands out and gets pestered afterwards to the point of not getting any dinner?

If the latter, is it wise to trundle through months of over-organised Toastmaster sessions to try to get there? Or instead find drastic short-cuts based on Confidence from Content?