Common Questions Before Your First Meeting

What is Toastmasters? Toastmasters is an international nonprofit dedicated to setting up local clubs where career-focused people can regularly practice their speaking and communication skills. La Palma Toastmasters was started as one of these local clubs. We meet every Wednesday.

What is a typical meeting like? Our club meetings begin with club President or VP of Education introduces the Toastmaster of The Day (the designated member of our club who will be running the meeting – a position anyone can volunteer for). The Toastmaster of The Day will lead in the Pledge of Allegiance, the reading of the club’s mission statement, and any new business items that concern the club. Then, you will be introduced to all the rest of the people involved with the meeting (Ah-Counter, Grammarian, General Evaluator, etc. – You’ll learn about these rules when you come to your first meeting). Then, we usually have two speakers do their prepared speeches back-to-back. After that, our Table Topics Master will stand and give the rest of the audience a chance to practice their improve skills by asking them questions and giving them 1-2 minutes to answer. After the Table Topics, all of our evaluators for the day will stand up and give their reports on the speeches, number of ums and ahs our members used, etc. Finally, the Toastmaster of The Day will hand out our brilliant cow trophy to our most deserving member.  Sounds like a busy meeting, right?

Can I visit a meeting just to see what it’s like? Do I have to pay? Yes, you can visit. No, you don’t have to pay. You only start paying when you decide to become a member and actively participate in the meetings.

Do I need permission before attending a meeting? No, you can just show up to a meeting if you’d like. You can also introduce yourself ahead of time via email and let us know you’ll be coming.

If I show up, will I be put on the spot or have to make a speech?  No, we would never put a nervous attendee on the spot. We do, on occasion, ask you if you’d like to participate in the Table Topics session (where we ask you an open-ended question and you try to spend 1-2 minutes responding, like in a job interview). You can always say no, or attempt to answer a Table Topics question and fail miserably (like I did!).

Can I bring someone with me to the meeting? Yes.

Are you open to everyone? Yes. The only rule is you have to be 18 or over.

Do I have to be a resident of the City of La Palma? No.

What will happen when I visit? You will meet some friendly people. They will say “hi,” and you’ll be asked to stay and observe the meeting.

Do I have to be able to come to meetings EVERY Wednesday to join? No. Many of our members can’t do it every Wednesday because of work, family, and vacation schedules.

I can’t come on Wednesdays. Are there Toastmasters clubs that meet on another day or time? Yes, you can find other local Toastmasters clubs at https://www.toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club

Is there parking available? Yes.

Do you have meetings during or around holidays? No, we don’t tend to meet during popular holiday seasons because our members usually have other plans with their families. If you are curious about an upcoming holiday, look at our Calendar to find out if we’re meeting or not.

I’m shy and not very good at speaking in front of people. Will I be laughed at by people who are more skilled speakers? Toastmasters clubs are very understanding of shyness. Many of our members (maybe the majority of our members) have worked through this or are still in the process of working through this.

I don’t need to make speeches at work or in my normal life. Does that mean I’d be a bad fit for Toastmasters? No, because we practice other forms of speaking that will play a role in your work life, such as the skill of leading a meeting, giving feedback, and being called on to speak about a topic on the fly.

My English is bad. Can I come? Yes, as long as you can understand basic English, you can join our Toastmasters club and work on your English. However, before you do that, you may want to find out if there are other local clubs that specialize in English as a second language: https://www.toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club

What kind of people attend the meetings? La Palma Toastmasters is a particularly diverse club. We house everyone from outgoing salespeople to extreme introverts, all ages, etc. You’ll have to come to a meeting to determine if you’re comfortable with our crowd, but there’s no one who would be out of place in our group.

Toastmasters sounds like a drinking or social club. Is it? No, Toastmasters is not a drinking or social club. A “toastmaster” used to mean someone who proposed toasts or introduced speakers at a banquet. The original Toastmasters club was named this to give off the air of a social, pleasant atmosphere for young members.

Will I be surrounded by skilled speakers? Most clubs (including ours) have more beginning speakers than they do experienced speakers. This fluctuates, but you can always be guaranteed that there will be at least a couple other beginning speakers to keep you company if you show up to a meeting.

Do your meetings ever go over the assigned hour? I’m on a tight schedule. We rarely go more than a minute or two over our time limit. Toastmasters members care very much about time management and well-run meetings.

Is there a dress code for the meetings? No. We wear everything from California casual to full business suits. I recommend a business casual if you are unsure.

Is the meetings fun? Sometimes. I don’t recommend going to a meeting for entertainment value, though. We have a few people who can really pick up the energy and make things fun, but most of our members are working very hard on nervousness issues.

Facts About Our Club

How many people typically attend these meetings? 7 to 15 people

How long has your club been around for? We were established on March 1, 2010.

What is special about your club? This is outlined in About Our Club

Why is is called “Toastmasters?” A toastmaster used to mean someone who proposed toasts or introduced speakers at a banquet. This was the name of the original Toastmasters club, and it has stuck.

I have more questions. Who do I talk to? You can find a current record of who to talk to on our Contact Page

FAQs For When You’re Getting Serious About Joining

Can I join more than one club? Yes, you can join more than one club. You will, as a result, have to pay dues for every club you join.

How much of my time will Toastmasters, take up? One hour a week plus any additional time to prepare and practice your speeches in your free time. All time spent at or for Toastmasters is voluntary.

Will my speeches be judged? If by judged, you mean to judge harshly, then no. However, part of our work at Toastmasters involves giving feedback, so after giving a speech you will usually be given one or two pointers to work on. For the most part, though, you will be swimming in a sea of compliments because we love to give positive feedback!

How soon after joining will I have to make a speech? You are not required to make a speech immediately after you join. You get to decide how long you want to wait before giving your first speech.

Why are the meeting agendas so structured and formal? In order for our meetings to finish on time, we have a formal plan for every meeting. Also, we do repetitive tasks like explaining the roles of the ah-counter, grammarian, etc. So that our members have a chance to stand up and speak, as well as to let guests know what to expect.

How much does it cost? The Toastmasters club dues are $51 ($45 for TI and $6 for LPTM) paid semi-annually on October 1 and April 1. All new members also pay a one-time US $20 fee for instructional material.

How do I actually go about joining a club? Our officers usually carry a membership SignUp form with them to the meetings. So ask for one and bring a checkbook to pay the dues.

What do I get for my dues/new member fees? If you are a new member of Toastmasters, you will receive your Competent Communication manual (a manual for your 10 first speeches) and a Competent Leadership manual (a manual for leadership roles you will fulfill during the normal course of our meetings) in the mail. All members of the Toastmasters club also receive a monthly magazine. The regular dues allow you to participate regularly in our meetings instead of simply being a guest.

What if I decide I don’t like Toastmasters? Not everyone likes Toastmasters, but I do recommend you try other local meetings before you write it off. Every club has a different vibe and it’s not uncommon to show up to a meeting that’s not the right fit for you. Find other local meetings at https://www.toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club

How receptive is your club to new members? We love new members. We are always very welcoming to visitors and guests who are considering joining our club.

Aren’t there speech contests? Yes, you always have the option to participate in speech competitions and represent us in friendly contests against other clubs.

What if I need to transfer from one club to another? When you transfer your membership to another club, you will need to fill out their Membership Application and check off the item “Transfer from club number/name.” You will not be charged membership dues at the new club until the dues run out on your old club membership, so you don’t have to pay twice!

Will I have to study? No. There are usually 2-3 page guides for you to read before every speech you give, but it is up to you how much time you dedicate to learning and practicing these techniques.

What if your meetings are full and I don’t get a lot of time to practice my speaking skills? Or, what if your meetings are empty and I’m asked to take on speaking roles too often? Talk to the current members and see how many people you can expect to show up to every meeting. Also, keep in mind that many people join Toastmasters and find that their goals and preferences change over time. If you feel uncomfortable with your participation level, speak to the President or VP of Education of the club and ask them for strategies to increase/decrease your participation in the meetings.

How do I know I’ll be able to participate as much, or as little, as I want to? Toastmasters is a group of warm, accommodating people. As long as you ask for what you want, most clubs will be flexible enough to provide a solution.

What’s the first speech like? What does it involve? The first speech is called the Icebreaker Speech. The speech is an introduction of yourself to the group. It is usually 4-6 minutes long, which is easy to fill (believe me). Most new members choose a theme for their Ice breakers Speech. For example:

  • What motivated me to join Toastmasters?
  • Vacations I have been on
  • A major event in my life
  • What am I most passionate about?

It is a chance to get your feet wet and help the existing members feel like they know you better.

Do you offer mentors? Yes, we can provide mentors. Our particular club does not have a formal mentorship program in place, but new and existing members are encouraged to choose mentors if they need extra help building their skills or staying motivated.

Do I get to choose the topics of my speeches? Yes, always! Each speech usually has a skill for you to focus on: organizing the speech, establishing the goals of the speech, the words you use, body language, vocal variety, research, visual aids, persuasion, inspiration, etc. But, the actual topic of the speech is up to you. It doesn’t have to be a big or grand topic either.

How soon will I see results? In my opinion, you will see results immediately. You’ll start to notice little things changing and may even discover a side of yourself that was never there before. However, your overall public speaking skills can take years to develop, so you won’t become an expert overnight.

Do you have any social events outside of the weekly meeting? Yes, we have social events outside and sometimes embedded INSIDE our weekly meetings. We often have “open house” meetings where each of our members bring snacks/food plus a friend. Outside of Toastmasters, there are volunteer opportunities and speech contests you can attend. These events vary, so it’s best to ask our President or VP of Education what opportunities will be sprouting up in the following months. Also, you can check our calendar.

How does Toastmasters help with job interviews? 10-20 minutes of our 60-minute meeting are dedicated to job interview-style questions, i.e. Unexpected, open-ended questions that you have to respond to under a 1-2 minute time frame. This section of our meeting is called Table Topics and it’s an opportunity to work on your improvisational skills. However, most of the questions are general in nature, as Toastmasters is not a job training program.