Every Toastmasters journey starts by visiting a club. What to expect when joining as a guest at the Bern Toastmasters Club?

Even though I personally showed up unannounced at my first meeting, it’s safer to drop us an email through the contact form before. We sometimes have special events outside of our regular location; we want to be sure that your first toastmasters experience does not comes down to finding the doors closed.

So, you took the decision to discover what is this club with this strange name, and you are heading to your first ever Toastmasters meeting. What is going to happen there?

First, we will try to welcome you warmly, with one of our members explaining you briefly how Toastmasters works. The schedule is always relatively similar. We start with four or five prepared speeches that are typically between 5 to 7 minutes long each. Then we have an optional dinner break in the pizzeria hosting our meetings. If you do want to eat something, fill the ordering form in the meeting room before the start. Each speaker is assigned an evaluator. After the break, every evaluator gives a 2 to 3 minutes feedback about his or her target speech.

Then come the scary or funny part, depending if you are a new or experimented member: the table topics. One of the attendant – the table topics masters – has prepared a few themes in advance, and proceeds to call members on the stage for an impromptu speech – i.e. without preparation – of 1 to 2 minutes.

At a Toastmasters meeting, everything gets evaluated in order to give us more opportunity to improve and grow. There is for instance an evaluator that times how long each participant speaks, or another one that write down good and bad uses of the English language during the evening. Eventually, all these evaluators are called to report about their observations.

Now, will you have to speak when visiting as a guest? Well, at the beginning of the meeting, our president will invite you to introduce yourself, tells us what are the reasons that convinced you to come, and where you’ve heard about our club. At the end, you will be asked about how you experienced the meeting and whether you are considering to come back. You are allowed to visit three times as a guest before having to decide if you want to join as a regular member.

One last thought. When I first came as a visitor, all prepared speeches I attended had been performed by experienced speakers – that is members who had done more than 10, or even 20 speeches. And I found it almost intimidating, as if I should already have such a high public speaking level in order to join. But nothing could be more wrong than that, the level of experimented speakers should rather be seen as the level that one can reach after a few months or years of practicing, not as a prerequisite. We all signed up because we were afraid to speak, and crappy at it, so beginner are more than welcome in our club.

We hope to see you soon at one of our Toastmasters evenings!

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