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How to Get the Most from Toastmasters

I love Toastmasters. I love my Toastmasters club. If you want to get better at public speaking fast, there isn’t anything better. Even though I have personally witnessed dozens of transformations from frightened to “master and commander,” too many people don’t get all they could from Toastmasters.

These four changes will ensure you get the most out of your time at Toastmasters.

One: Write Your Speeches

At Toastmasters, we have an exercise called Table Topics. During this exercise, you are asked a question or given a prompt, and you have two minutes to reply extemporaneously. Some of us suffer from the curse of being particularly good at this exercise. Because we can riff on a subject, we do riff on a subject. This becomes a problem when you believe it means you don’t have to prepare for your real speeches.

If you want to get the most from Toastmasters, you should write every word of every speech you give.

Just because you can speak for 5 to 7 minutes without preparing doesn’t mean that you should. In real life, this is rude. People are giving you one of their most precious and irreplaceable commodities: their time. You should be respectful to that gift and you should prepare.

More still, you will make much better language choices when you take the time to write your lines. Want memorable lines? Want real zingers? Sometimes they happen by accident, but mostly they are written.

Write your speech.

Two: Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

Sadly almost every speech I see is being given for the first time. What I should be seeing should only look like it is be giving for the first time. It should be the thirty-sixth time the speech has been given.

If you don’t read your speech aloud during rehearsal, you won’t have any idea what the words really sound like. Read your speech aloud five times. Then, write the outline on an index card and give the speech five more times aloud. Then, with no written prompts, give the speech standing up and practice your physical movements. Move like you need to move when you are giving the speech.

Rehearse your speech aloud five times for two consecutive days and tell me your speech isn’t monumentally better. Trust me, the difference will be seen and felt, but no one will no how much you rehearsed to get it there. It will look as fresh as a daisy.

Three: Get Real Feedback

At Toastmasters, every speech you give is evaluated. When you are new, almost all of the feedback is very positive and encouraging, as it should be. But as you improve, if you really want to get better, you need better feedback. It’s helpful to find someone in your club who will give you the unvarnished truth.

Ask this person to tell you directly what they believe you did well and what you need to improve. Ask them to be candid, and explain to them your goals.

I get some very nice reviews after I speak. And then the people that I trust give me their real feedback. I spoke today, and I brought more energy than I ever have to the speech. One nice club member congratulated me for bringing so much energy and told me how improved my speaking has been over the last couple speeches . . . before she told me that I still had way more energy to give. I promised to better still. This is the kind of feedback that helps.

Four: Video Tape Your Speeches

I am not going to go over this same ground again here. Just know that whatever you feel you are giving off in the way of energy, your audience sees something far less than you feel. When you see it on video, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Live through the pain. Watch the videos. Make adjustments. Get the most from your time at Toastmasters.


Could you use some help speaking in front of groups of people?

How important is preparation when it comes to presenting well?

How do you rehearse for presentations? Do you write and practice your critical lines?

Who do you trust to give you real feedback on your performance?

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  • Mike Rudd aka @marketingmiker

    Great post Anthony!  And a great speech yesterday…my wife was starting to wonder how many I was going to rehearse my speech to her the past few days leading up to it and I kept telling her “We are there to get better.  I am not scared of public speaking I am there to get great at what I do and therefore I need to rehearse it over and over and over and over…”

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      You’re on to something there, Mike. That rehearsal makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it? You were certainly confident!

  • Patrice K. Cokley, MBA

    Hi Anthony! I really enjoyed your post. I was just speaking to my friend about how I would like to join our local toastmasters group and hone my public speaking skills. In business as well as life, knowing how to engage publicly is a skill that we all must know. Thanks for sharing!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      You’ll love it! I Promise! Report back here after your first speech and tell me how inspired you are!

  • Tim Mushey

    Anthony this is an awesome post! I joined Toastmasters last September and really enjoy it. All of the points that you mention are very accurate. The one that stands out the most is about the practicing. The speeches that I had time to practice were noticeably better, and I certainly felt more comfortable in front of the group knowing ahead of time what it would sound like. Now I have to work on the practicing for two days thing!
    I just completed speech #7 last Monday, and am aiming to complete 10 to achieve my “Competent Communicator” status by June. From there, I will continue to speak, but want to get more involved in the leadership roles too. Thanks again!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Awesome! You should absolutely do the leadership track, too. It’s a lot of work (says the guy who unknowingly volunteered to be VP of Education), but it’s a great program, and you make a huge difference in your club. 

      You guys using video?

      • Saket Bansal

        Yes do video my speech, I agree with you that leadership track has lot to offer  because it makes your participation in meeting active.. so you start learning for others also.

      • Tim Mushey

        Thanks Anthony! So you are the VP of Eduction? Excellent. Come to think of it, I am the VP of Membership, so I have started the leadership track already. It is quite the challenge, trying to recruit new members (especially the “20 and 30 – somethings”)! I am 38, and I feel like the “teenager” in the group:-) All joking aside, it is an awesome time, and I look to use some of your suggestions to step up my game in two weeks. Will keep you posted. And no, we don’t use video, but I would like to spear-head that for next year. It is a great idea, and would be very valuable to everyone! Take care…