The Best way to share with you my key learning as Toastmasters is by looking at the history of Toastmasters
And I hope the history of Toastmasters will enlighten you to follow your vision – it all started small.
How did all start?
It began with one man who initiated Toastmasters and a few members and now Toastmasters has more than 500 000 members worldwide.
This is Dr. Ralph Smedley who had the idea of Toastmasters. Dr. Smedley was born in 1878 and graduated from Illionois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in 1903.
He became the Educational Director of the YMCA in Bloomington and realized soon that his young men had a need for speech training. And he also learned that with a speaking class, literary or debating society he would not attract them.
He settled on the idea of a social club meeting weekly devoted to practice in short speeches, debates and some work in chairmanship.
The first meeting was held on March, 24 1905. It started of with the dinner which was prepared by the participants and followed by speeches limited to 5 to 6 minutes. The subject was chosen by the speaker. Criticism was given by the older men and a critical discussion among the members, who also expressed their opinion. A rotation of duties for each meeting was established for members taking turns at presiding and speaking.
Very shortly the members noticed a prompt improvement in the speech and as well as in the leadership skills which spelled over into the other clubs at the YMCA
1) Effective Learning is learning by doing and improving through continuous practice and evaluation in a social fun environment.
Why is the official birth date of Toastmasters is October 22, 1924 at the Santa Ana YMCA in California ?
Between Santa Ana and Bloomington Ralph Smedley moved several times to take on duties at other YMCAs. Each time he started a similar club, but as soon as he left, the club died down.
In Santa Ana he was approached by outside people who wanted to start a similar club. This led Ralph Smedley to write a manual on how to organize these kind of social learning events.
Toastmasters started to grow quickly as it was a simple idea put to work in a simple manner.
2.) Easy to use (first principle) – a simple idea, put to work in a simple manner but if you want something to sustain you need to document it for others. Ralph Smedley also realized this when looking back in his biography.
Dr. Ralph in the 1920s
How did the Toastmasters System evolve?
It was only with the Toastmasters club number 15 in Santa Ana that a new feature the so called Table Topics which are impromptu speeches by members were introduced.
A few years later the first competent communicator curriculumn than called speechcraft was introduced.
3.) Once the fundamental principles are there every else will follow. An idea never starts perfect !!!
The future of Toastmasters ?
This is the world headquarters of Toastmasters connecting now over 500 000 members world wide and growing.
When Dr. Smedley was asked why he never turned his idea into a profitable business, he replied: “I would rather be rich in friendship than in money”.
On June 11 we Toastmasters in DOW joined together in a virtual meeting. Most of Toastmasters in DOW realized that we are spending more and more of our time in virtual teams and meetings and therefore see the need to practice virtual communication and leadership and we can all do this by applying the principles laid by the founder of Toastmaster Dr. Ralph Smedly.
The Final Key Learning’s:
4.) Network your way to your dreams and visions and never stop learning and adapting to the changing environment.
Learning is effective when it is learning by doing and improving through continuous practice and evaluation in a social fun environment even if it virtual.