Why Toastmasters benefits Rotary clubs

Toastmasters meeting

Portland Rotary members at a Toastmasters meeting.

Terry Beard

Terry Beard

By Terry Beard, Rotary Club of Portland, Oregon, USA

You may have heard that most people would rather die than give a speech. Public speaking is the number one fear for many people.

For 49 years, I too had a fear of public speaking. It was so bad, I would break out in a sweat. I’d leave the room. I’d find excuses, or ask other people to stand up and speak for me. Anything to avoid having to speak in public. A couple of bad experiences early in my life built up this fear, but I made it my goal to overcome it. Fifteen years ago at the age of 50, I was introduced to Toastmasters by a good friend, and I’ve been a member since.

As a Rotary member, I’ve been committed to Service Above Self for more than 20 years. I now believe one of the best acts of service we can do is to help people find their voice.

Four years ago, a group of Rotary members and I started a Toastmasters club to do just that. We wanted to create a “safe harbor” where people could improve their speaking skills, in the spirit of friendship and fellowship. As a charter member, I was privileged to give the first speech, which established this shared value as the cornerstone of our club.

Our Rotary club has over 250 members and our Toastmasters club has around 40. While most of the Toastmasters members are also members of our Rotary club, we are also open to non-Rotarians. Those who are in both clubs find added value in Toastmasters.

In Toastmasters, we learn how to feel comfortable in front of an audience, sharing knowledge, experiences, and values. This is not only fun for the audience, but it’s healing and even cleansing for us to share our stories. While it can initially be hard to open up and be vulnerable in front of peers, as we do so, it helps us understand and relate to each other.

When we are members of the audience listening to others speak, we also benefit. We sometimes identify with the way the speaker feels, or the thoughts they have shared, producing empathy, trust, and a sense of community. These all lead to peace.

As we learn and develop different speaking techniques, this benefits all areas of life, helping restore an art that is being lost in this day and age of communicating online.

Toastmasters can benefit a Rotary club in a number of ways.

  1. It can improve the quality of your weekly programs by creating a pool of people who can deliver a better talk. Often clubs invite someone to give a program because of their topic, regardless of their skills as a speaker. Imagine having a built in means of training people to deliver better programs.
  2. It can enhance your leadership training. One of our members joined when he was selected as president-elect of his alumni advisory council. He knew he would have several speaking engagements and joined Toastmasters to practice. Toastmasters members also learn skills in running meetings.
  3. It can teach your members how to better share their Rotary story with the public. We have developed some great storytellers, and Rotarians have amazing stories to tell.
  4. It can introduce people to Rotary and show them why they should join. Often, when non-Rotarians join our Toastmasters club, they inevitably hear about Rotary and end up joining.

We started our Toastmasters club to help members develop their voice and grow in their leadership skills. But we got so much more than we anticipated. A huge benefit is getting to know people on a deeper level. The experiences people have shared in our Toastmasters meetings have built deeper, longer-lasting relationships. There is a sense of community and connection that goes beyond anything you can get just by sitting at a table and having lunch.

It brings tears to my eyes to be a part of this great community. The combination of Rotary and Toastmasters allows for big dreams to come true. As we build our communication and leadership skills, we become better equipped to tackle the world’s problems.

If you have questions about Toastmasters and Rotary, reach me at terry@treefortventures.com

18 thoughts on “Why Toastmasters benefits Rotary clubs

  1. Hi Terry,
    As the Vice President of Education for the Torrington, (CT) Toastmasters Club, and a former member of Rotary, your story will help me explain the Alliance to my Club members tonight. I hope to instill in them a strong desire to connect with Rotary Clubs in the greater Torrington area so that we all will benefit from this alliance. Thank you for this testimonial.


  2. I’ve been a toastmaster for many years and I’ve recently been asked to present at a Rotary club meeting on this Toastmasters/Rotary alliance. I found your article very insightful.


  3. Thank you, Terry, for your inspirational blog. I have been a Toastmaster for 28 years and a Rotarian for 20 years, and I totally could not agree with you more! I have run school speech contests for Rotary using Toastmaster judges for 17 out of the 20 years and have been able to have an alliance with many Rotary clubs in D9810. What a great idea to start a Toastmaster club with Rotarians, open to all! It would be a fabulous club indeed!


  4. Dear Terry, Thanks for such a great story. I have heard of Toastmasters but have never had anything to do with them, this will change! Yours sincerely. Bill Dominguez, Assistant Governor, D9600, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


  5. The Rotary Toastmasters Club of Portland has been the best platform to form lasting connections with other Rotarians at the Rotary Club of Portland. Through sharing stories that matter to us, we have not only honed our public speaking skills in a community that values and supports each member in their skill formation, but we have also created a community at a level of connection that is rare in most clubs and reaches far beyond the club. It unites us in our common goal of service above self and making this world better. Terry Beard with his pioneer spirit has launched an avalanche of good for which I am always grateful!


  6. This is an amazing testimony. I have been looking for good reasons to join Rotary and the Toastmasters Rotary collaboration is just timely. As the club growth Director for Ghana, we are beginning to see a large interest from professional institutions like the Project Management Institute to inculcate Toastmasters protocols within their training programs. I joined Toastmasters at age 44 and I thought it was too late in the day. Reading your story proves how I need to position Toastmasters as a life long educational club in my communication and leadership journey. Do visit my blog http://suzydotblog.wordpress.com/


  7. Terry, as the Club Growth Director for District 55 in Texas, thank you from the bottom of my heart for this EXCELLENT article! We got a new club lead because of it from a Rotary club.



  8. This was a really good story. I will share it with one of our members who is a member of Rotary Club. Maybe we can get a club


  9. The Rotary/Toastmaster group is an excellent adjunct to the Rotary Club as it prepares members to function more effectively to provide service to a world very much in need. Mr. Beard is to be commended for being a pioneer and starting this important component of Rotary’s offering.


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