Toastmasters does not want you to be a great speaker.

That’s right. Toastmasters does not want you to be a great speaker.

I know what you are screaming.

“That’s ludicrous,” you say. “Doesn’t Toastmasters have a ‘World Champion of Public Speaking’ every year?”

Yes. It is always good to have role models.

“Don’t we have the Competent Communicator manual to make us great speakers? We work on vocabulary, gestures, eye contact, and even visual aids.”

It is good to have training.

However, did you read the manual objectives closely? Are you sure the projects are just to improve your vocal variety and body language?


Look again. Reread the objectives of each of the ten speeches of the Competent Communications Manual. What is each REALLY asking you to do?

Speech 1. Introduce yourself to the club

Speech 2. Have a Speech leading to clearly defined goal

Speech 3. Give a Speech with clear General AND Specific purpose

Speech 4. Use words that effectively communicate your message

Speech 5. Use body language to illustrate and enhance your message

Are you beginning to see a trend? What do the last five projects require?

Speech 6. Use vocal Variety to enhance your message

Speech 7. Conduct research to support specific points with facts, examples

Speech 8. Use visual aids appropriate to message

Speech 9. Persuade audience to adopt a viewpoint

Speech 10. Inspire audience to achieve higher levels of beliefs or accomplishments

Nothing in any of the ten objectives says, “Become a better speaker.”

Whether it is called “goal” or “purpose,” viewpoint” or “point,” in every one of the ten speeches the objective is the same - to leave the audience with a clear MESSAGE!
Toastmasters is NOT teaching us to be better speakers. It is NOT showing us how to “wow” everyone each time we talk.
Toastmasters wants us to HAVE A MESSAGE and COMMUNICATE IT clearly and effectively! .

Whether we are talking with one person or a group, we want them to remember some central theme, or lesson, moral, point or fact – the message.

If you do not have a message, then frankly you are RAMBLING!
You never thought of it that way? Don’t feel bad. I was in Toastmasters for over ten years, earned two DTMs, had been an Area Governor and Division Governor before this became clear to me.


Now you are worried. “I don’t know enough to have a message for anyone. Who would listen to what I have to say?”
Whenever you are speaking – in a prepared speech, answering a question, or giving an evaluation – you should have a clear, concise goal, or message appropriate for your audience. Your presentation should have a point to it, a lesson learned, a “moral of the story,” a central theme that you want the audience to remember.

Your message should be clear. Make it one central point, specific, easily understood. It should be concise, no more than one sentence. It should appropriate for your audience.

Keep your message personal. Talk about your perspective, and your viewpoint. What did it mean to you? This is what is meant by the saying, “talk about what you know.”
Consider this. Your experiences, your perspectives and your approaches are different than others. Your audience would like to hear about that, and you.

You have had many experiences in your life. Almost none changed your life. But they were memorable. They mean something to you. They stirred some emotion: regret, happiness, awe. We want to hear about them.


Toastmasters shows us that there are three important areas to get our message across: ORGANIZATION, CONTENT and DELIVERY.

Content is the facts, figures, stories, comments and other information we say to support our message. Organization is the order we put those components into our presentation. Delivery is how we actually present the material.

The Competent Communication manual has instructions on all those sections, and more.

In Speech 1 (the Ice Breaker), we learn about Organization by outlining our own introduction. This is more clear in Speech 2 (Organize Your Speech), and in Speech 3 (Get to the Point), when we focus on our own clearly defined speech goal (that is, our message).

We work on Content in Speech 4 (How to Say It), by finding the right words, and in Speech 7 (Research Your Topic), when we learn how to use facts and information to support our points.

We discover Delivery techniques to enhance our message, using body language in Speech 5 (Your Body Speaks), use of our voice in Speech 6 (Vocal Variety), and use of props and other tools in Speech 7 (Visual Aids).

Finally, we put them all to practice in Speech 9 (Persuade with Power) and Speech 10 (Inspire Your Audience).

Each one of those lessons builds upon the others to help hone our skills, not for being better speakers, but for being able to get our message across to our audience. By speeches 9 and 10 we are learning to persuade and inspire.

This approach even works in Table Topics. When you are asked a question, let it bring you to an idea or story related to that topic. Decide on a message that you learned about that idea or from that story. Then, organize your thoughts into a clear opening, a logical body and effective conclusion all leading toward sharing that message with your audience.


Dale Carnegie, in his book, The Art of Public Speaking, says, “It’s not about you. It’s about the message. . Self is secondary to your subject.”

What was my message? “Toastmasters wants you to find your message and communicate it clearly and effectively.”

Use the Toastmasters program to find our message. Learn to communicate it clearly and effectively. In that way you will improve your oral communication and leadership skills, increase your self-confidence and personal growth, and definitely HAVE FUN DOING IT!

Author's Bio: 

Fred Haley, published author and speaker, has been a member of Toastmasters for over 12 years. Fred has earned two Distinguished Toastmasters awards. His web site, is “Every Toastmaster’s first stop for advice and resources.” Fred publishes a weekly ToastMentor newsletter. Contact Fred at