Odds are, you want to improve your public speaking – no matter what your skill level is. Happily you’ve several options, one of the best-known being Toastmasters. (If it’s new to you, you can watch how Toastmasters meetings work in a professional video.)
A second option is Speaking Circles, first founded in the US by Lee Glickstein. You can read chapter 1 of Lee’s book Be Heard Now! online. I thought the chapter was extremely intriguing and appealing, so in this post I’ll highlight the key differences between the Toastmasters and Speaking Circles approaches.
To give you some context, both Toastmasters and Speaking Circles are run as regular group meetings, where members each take turns speaking to the group for around 5 minutes. Because fear of public speaking is rife, tackling nerves is one of the main goals of both organisations.
The most striking differences between Toastmasters and Speaking Circles are:
|Ease of access||There are 13,500 clubs in 116 countries (so for instance, I could choose from about 10 clubs in suburbs near me in Sydney) – proximity worldwide is one of Toastmasters’ great strengths||There seem to be only dozens of Speaking Circles globally, mainly in the US (so for instance, there are just 4 facilitators in the whole Asia-Pacific region – 3 in Japan and 1 in New Zealand)|
|Attitude to silence||Silence is used only in pauses, as one aspect of an effective speech (For more on that, see Pause for impact)||Silence is embraced so much that participants aren’t even called “speakers” – despite the organisation’s name. I find this an alluring attitude to silence, because the world’s awash with worthless words already!
(For ways to avoid using worthless words yourself (beyond being silent!) see Use questions or issues for structure, which deals with the macro scale, and Choose shorter words and phrases, for the micro scale.)
|Speech feedback or evaluations||Receiving constructive criticism is seen as an essential part of every speech||Feedback to the speaker focuses solely on appreciation|
|Leadership development||Practising leadership skills is a key goal (for interested members), and the Toastmasters slogan is “Where leaders are made”||The focus is on building confidence in front of a group|
|Group size||Toastmasters clubs can get quite big, so although it’s traditional for everyone to say at least a few words at each meeting, in the larger clubs there’ll be less opportunities for 5-minute speeches||Speaking Circles are limited to 10 people|
Have your say
- 5 free public-speaking courses (available worldwide)
- See what Toastmasters is like, right now! (Video)
- For tips on Toastmasters, see Olivia Mitchell’s thoughtful and thought-provoking article (and the comments below it):
How to get the most out of Toastmasters
- For more information about Speaking Circles, see their page:
What to expect at your first Speaking Circle.
- My own approach to public speaking:
5 ways to be a top presenter – meet the FiRST framework
- Today’s most popular posts, and the latest visitor comments