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About Toastmasters

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Founded in October 1924, the organization currently has more than 270,000 members in 13,000 clubs in 116 countries. Each week, Toastmasters helps more than a quarter million people of every ethnicity, education and profession build their competence in communication so they can gain the confidence to lead others.

The Story of Toastmasters

Since Toastmasters began, more than two million people benefited from its communication and leadership training programs.

The first club was formed in October 1924, when a group of men, assembled by founder Dr. Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the Santa Ana, California, YMCA, to form a club “to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.”

The group took the name “Toastmasters.”

A year later, a second club was started in Anaheim, California, followed by a third in Los Angeles.  By 1930, it was apparent that a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the clubs and to provide standard methods.  After the formation of a club in Victoria, British Columbia, the group was known as Toastmasters International.

Growth was slow during the early years, but the number of clubs increased steadily.  The forerunner of today’s Communication and Leadership program, Basic Training, was introduced in 1942 and expanded and updated many times since then to evolve with the times and member’s needs.

Membership in Toastmasters International increased rapidly after the end of World War II, and by 1954 the number of Toastmasters clubs approached 1,500.

Gavel Clubs were formed in 1958 to accommodate groups wanting Toastmasters training but were not qualified for Toastmasters membership.  These clubs provide communication and leadership training in correctional institutions, hospitals, mental institutions and schools.  In 1966, the Youth Leadership Program, for young people in junior and senior high school, was added to the list of established community programs presented by Toastmasters.

In 1962, World Headquarters offices were moved to a new building in Santa Ana, California, near where the first club began.

In 1973, Toastmasters club membership was opened to women, enabling them to also benefit from self-development in communication and leadership.  In the same year, a comprehensive listening program was introduced to further help members develop their communication skills.  The following year saw a celebration of the organization’s first 50 years and the promise of an even more successful second half-century.

A Modernized Program

New programs, including the modular Advanced Communication and Leadership series, Success/Leadership Series, and self-study cassette tape programs, were added to augment the Communication and Leadership program.  Growth in new clubs, especially in the corporate sector, reached new heights in the late 1970’s with the number of clubs approaching 4,000.

Toastmasters International is the undisputed world leader in public speaking training and continuously improves the program. Listen to Trisha describe her journey from fear to enjoyment in public speaking through Toastmasters:

Book: The Story of Toastmasters, Part 1

Book: The Story of Toastmasters, Part 2

Document: Toastmasters Intl Electronic Media Kit