What is Toastmasters
Helping You to Become a Better Communicator
Toastmasters began as a series of speaking clubs organized by Ralph C. Smedley during his time working for the YMCA in Bloomington, Illinois, United States. As director of education at the YMCA, Smedley saw a need for the men in the community to learn how
to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees, and he wanted to help them.
Smedley decided to organize a club where men could learn these skills in a social environment, and they responded well to the concept. He named the group the Toastmasters Club; "toastmaster" was a popular term that referred to a person who gave toasts at
banquets and other occasions.
The first unofficial Toastmasters meeting was held March 24, 1905. Much like Toastmasters meetings today, the participants took turns leading and speaking at each meeting. Smedley and the older, more experienced men evaluated the short speeches, while
the younger men were invited to join in. However, as Smedley accepted positions at other YMCAs—in Illinois and later, in San Jose, California—those first fledgling clubs lacked leadership and did not flourish.
In 1922, Smedley began working at the newly organized YMCA in Santa Ana, California, and for the first two years, his time was spent building a home for the organization. However, his passion to help others learn to speak and lead remained. Once the new
YMCA building was christened in April of 1924, he was able to introduce the idea of Toastmasters to his colleagues, and organize the Toastmasters club that eventually became Club No. 1 of Toastmasters International. The club’s first meeting was held at
the YMCA building on October 22, 1924. Word spread about Smedley's Toastmasters club and soon people in surrounding communities and other states were asking how they could start their own.
Since that first Toastmasters meeting in 1924, millions of men and women have benefited from the Toastmasters experience. And the organization continues to grow both domestically and internationally. The organization's membership currently exceeds 332,000
in more than 15,400 clubs in 135 countries.