10 Things I Hate About Toastmasters

danny riley public speaking coach

Danny Riley
5 min read

What you’ll learn:

  • 10 specific reasons I dislike Toastmasters.
  • A behind the scenes look at being a Toastmaster.
  • The politics, problems and people at Toastmasters.
toastmasters guest

Toastmasters is a love, hate relationship.

In six years as a Toastmaster, I made some excellent friends developed confidence and leadership skills.

More than that, though, I became the President of my club, the Area Director of the North West of England and attained the top educational award: the Distinguished Toastmaster designation.

But in 2019, I decided to leave Toastmasters to climb new self-development mountains and haven’t looked back since.

I could say many good things about Toastmasters, and I will when you read my article about how much I love Toastmasters. But first, I wanted to relive one of my favourite rom-coms of all time so here are ten things I hate about Toastmasters.

1. The One Time Speeches

If you want to improve a speech such as a business presentation or best man speech, the best way would be to deliver the same speech repeatedly, enhancing every aspect of the writing and delivery.

However, The Toastmasters Programme encourages writing, practising, and delivering many different speeches throughout your education.

Toastmasters is big on entertainment and humour, so repeated business speeches draw disdain from audiences and evaluators alike.

2. The Politics

Toastmasters is not just about public speaking.

Toastmasters International exists to help people become better leaders. The slogan is Where Leaders Are Made. Members are encouraged (forced) to become part of their club committee, which is a queue to the Presidency. There is no democratic process or vote of competence.

Some long-standing members are seated in power fiefdoms for life and refuse to budge from a single role. Other members rotate from President to another position, leaving other members to wait in a perpetual line.

But, once you’re on the committee, you’ll awaken to the realities of leadership, such as short staffing, people letting you down, and sometimes a bit of back-stabbing.What was once fun becomes a chore as you navigate the political snakes-den like a Renaissance courtier.

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3. Toastmasters makes you a great Toastmaster.

Want to develop speaking and leadership skills for the real world?

Once you leave the Toastmasters world of indiscriminate audience positivity and seal-like clapping, you might. Be warned, though, your Toastmasters stories, jokes, and anecdotes are only suitable for Toastmasters audiences.

Toastmasters will make you a great Toastmaster, not a great speaker.

We work with many experts in their field who need the sheen of charisma required to win over a demanding audience. At Project Charisma, we help you create a winning message tailored to your audience.

4. The Awards.

Watch the World Championships of Public Speaking by Toastmasters and you will notice a distinct pattern.

Toastmasters are drilled until the ‘best speeches’ all look, sound, and feel the same. Toastmasters is one-size-fits-all. You’ll get strict instructions on talking, walking, and clapping, and any creativity or disobedience is quickly stamped out.

If you want to be unique and let your personality shine, you have to work with your natural talents and hangups.

5. The time and commitment.

If you have six years of your life to devote to the art of public speaking and leadership, then Toastmasters is for you.

Unfortunately, Toastmasters International doesn’t offer intensive boot camps to polish and ready your business speech.

They offer some programmes, which seem to be primarily marketing to recruit new Toastmasters. Once you join Toastmasters, expect to abandon the rest of your life commitments in favour of weekly meetings (three times per week isn’t an exaggeration), committee meetings, speech contests, and social events.

You might love it and meet some fantastic people, but your family life could suffer, and you’ll likely not gain any long-term benefits from the time you put in.

6. The cliques and politics.

I’ll be the first to admit that I fell into this camp.

When I joined my first club, hardly anyone was a member. So, as the club grew in numbers, I knew everyone in it. Making friends at Toastmasters is easy.

Hardly anywhere in the world can you be in a conversation with four people, and they all are from different countries. But guests can feel like they’ve walked into an Old Boys Club.

I made a point of always speaking to new members and encouraging them to return. But, I noticed that many long-standing members and committee members would gather together and practically ignore new guests.

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7. The Evalutions.

A big part of Toastmasters is in the evaluations.

An Evaluator evaluates your speeches; the Evaluators and Speakers are watched by Ah Counters, Time Keepers, and Grammarians; and a General Evaluator evaluates everyone.

All this feedback would be great if the quality of that feedback weren’t highly questionable. Low meeting attendance sometimes means guests are ordained as evaluators on their maiden meeting.

The soundbites quickly become tiresome:

  • “Use more of the stage”
  • “Project your voice”
  • “Keep to time”

If you want an expert to evaluate your professional speeches, Toastmasters might not be your first stop. You’ll be lucky to get someone who has delivered a speech themselves.

I once knew a  Club President who hadn’t delivered a single speech. Also, remember that evaluators are trying to win awards, just like the speakers, so take what they say with a pinch of salt.

They are evaluating more for themselves than you sometimes.

8. The Ah Counter.

Filler words can be a real bugbear of a listening audience, but they are ignored if the content is solid.

However, Toastmasters would have you believe filler words are the bane of human existence, and the ah counter takes much pleasure in dragging you to hell and back.

You can be subject to a grilling based on the number of times you said ‘like’ or ‘so’ during your unprepared 2-minute talk. You’ll be reprimanded for:

  • Ums and ahs, or so’s and like’s
  • Hands in your pocket
  • Not enough eye-contact
  • The absence of wild gestures

We’ll show you how to overcome filler words easily. You don’t need to take a thrashing every meeting to fix them.

9. The Polish.

That’s polish, as in furniture polish, not Polish. I love Polish people!

In Toastmasters, there’s a tendency to focus on making the benign shine. The best body language is like grammar; if you’re doing it properly, then nobody notices.

But, at Toastmasters, you’re led to believe that you need to cross the line between a pantomime villain and a deaf interpreter to be noticed.

If you enter speech contents, you’re likely to lose out if you do not adopt the outlandish hand gestures of a Roman orator, but this bleeds out into every speech you’ll do.

However, it’s not only the body language that Toastmasters insists you ramp up. Watching any TED Talk or anyone in business speaking to their audience is primarily natural and conversational.

Toastmasters forces you to embellish every story in dramatic form as though you’re speaking to an audience of children at bedtime.

10. Toastmasters is Quite Cultish.

Toastmasters members are inviting, charming, helpful, and highly motivated to get you to sign up.

Not because they are incentivised, but because they are true advocates of what Toastmasters has done for them.

Let me be clear: I was a proud and happy member for six years. There are no secrets, except the gossip between cliquey members, and you’re free to leave at any time (but that’s what all cults tell you).

Some clues point to Toastmasters being a cult, however.

There is the hero-worship of Ralph C. Smedly, who founded the club. There is the insistence that you say ‘Mr. Toastmaster, fellow members, and welcome guests’ during every speech. There are banners and other artefacts such as a gavel used during meetings to keep ‘order’, and there is a hierarchy of leadership that you’re unaware of until you join as a member.

But if Toastmasters is a cult, it’s the best cult out there. I loved being a Toastmaster and felt warm and uplifted in every meeting.

There is a brighter side to Toastmasters.

You might think I dislike Toastmasters International because of this post, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. I decided to leave Toastmasters simply because I wanted to find new mountains to climb rather than keep climbing the same one. 

I wrote an article called 10 Things I Love About Toastmasters too.

In the future, I might join again, but I think that will be when I’ve retired and have enough time to spare.

I would love to hear any reasons I might have missed about how Toastmasters can be improved or if you disagree with any of my points. In short, you will enjoy Toastmasters, but for rapid public speaking prowess without the time, fluff, or politics, get in touch about our Public Speaking courses and coaching.

charismatic speaker scorecard

Discover Your Charisma Score!

The Charismatic Speaker Scorecard benchmarks your ability to speak in an engaging way, and identifies opportunities to improve based on three key areas:
  1. Confident Mindset
  2. Compelling Content
  3. Engaging Delivery
Take the scorecard to find out how ready you are to speak in public – and receive a report that’ll tell you exactly what to work on.