|Formation||October 22, 1924|
incorporated December 19, 1932
|Legal status||Non-profit organization|
|Headquarters||9127 South Jamaica St., Englewood, Colorado, US|
|Over 352,000 members; 16,400 clubs in 141 countries|
|Lark Doley, DTM|
|Board of Directors|
The organization grew out of a single club, Smedley Chapter One Club, which would become the first Toastmasters club. It was founded by Ralph C. Smedley on October 22, 1924, at the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, United States. It originated as a set of classes with the aim of improving the communication skills of the young men under his charge. Toastmasters International was incorporated under Californian law on December 19, 1932.
Throughout its history, Toastmasters has served over four million people, and today the organization serves over 352,000 members in 141 countries, through its 16,400 member clubs. Toastmasters membership increased rapidly around the turn of the century, nearing 16,000 clubs worldwide by 2016.
Toastmasters International uses a local club-based structure, each having around 20-40 members. Meetings are held every week or other week and usually in the evening, although some clubs meet in the morning or afternoon. Each club operates as a separate entity with a set of requirements leading to chartered status for them to be recognised as official Toastmasters clubs. Chartered status allows for clubs to use the names, promotional material and programme of TI.
Part of meetings is devoted to Table Topics, which are off-the-cuff speeches which are assigned on the spot by a Topicsmaster. The goal of this is to think on one's feet with minimal preparation. In some clubs attendees are then asked to vote on who they thought gave the best speech.
Every meeting is based around a set of organised speeches. Speakers are evaluated by an experienced member who then gives an impromptu speech with constructive feedback based on their performance.
Toastmasters International places a large emphasis on building the public speaking and leadership skills of its members. The current education system consists of ten differing paths suited to their needs and requirements, based around Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, Management, Strategic Leadership, and Confidence. Each path consists of 14 projects. Content consists of online and print materials, it being the first time in the organisation’s history to provide modern technology in its programme. Content is available in English, French and German.
Toastmasters runs an international public speaking championship formally known as the Toastmasters International World Champion of Public Speaking, which is held annually at its International Convention in August. It started in 1938 and involves over 33,000 participants in 141 countries making it the world's largest speech contest. There is a six-month process of elimination to reach the semifinals, in which in 2018 there were 106 participants who got that far. There are ten places in the final and speeches are judged on content, gestures, organisation and style.