Toastmasters Clubs in the Czech Republic

Improving your skills through toastmasters

David Creighton

Written by David Creighton Published on 24.10.2012 15:45:41 (updated on 24.10.2012) Reading time: 5 minutes

Nervous about giving a presentation to your colleagues? Or would you like to hone your leadership at work skills? There are several ways of achieving these goals, including on-the-job training of coaching sessions. But there’s also another solution that you may be less familiar with – Toastmasters. If you’re based in Prague or some of the larger towns in the Czech Republic, you can join a Toastmasters International Club. For a relatively low fee, you can take part in regular group meetings designed specifically to help you be a better public speaker and leader, as well as develop your self-confidence.

The Toastmasters story goes back to California in 1924. The organization was founded by Ralph C Smedley, who worked at a local YMCA and noticed that some members needed assistance with public speaking. He decided to set up a group that would help them develop their skills in speaking and leading. It had the format of a social club and he named it Toastmasters. His idea was successful, and the concept soon spread elsewhere in the USA, and became international when it moved over the border into Canada in 1935. Now, almost 90 years later, Toastmasters, which is headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, has gone global. These days it has more than 280,000 members in 13,500 clubs, in 116 countries.

The aim of Toastmasters is simple: to help members become more effective public speakers and leaders, but through a “learning-by-doing” approach rather than lectures from instructors. A club typically has 20 to 40 members, from different walks of life and they meet regularly, often weekly or fortnightly. At each meeting prepared speeches are made on specific topics, and members also give on-the-spot talks known as Table Topics, which can help them improve a range of skills, including thinking on their feet, timekeeping and grammar.
Michal Juhás, vice-president at Bohemian Toastmasters and entrepreneur, explains that “After paying the membership fee you can assign (or will be assigned) a particular speaker function during a session. There are about 15 different such roles during one meeting, including Toastmaster Evaluator and Toastmaster Grammarian.”
In addition to such tasks, members can develop their public speaking abilities by working through the Competent Communication manual, comprising 10 speaking assignments. The tasks are carried out at the participant’s own pace, and the aim is to establish a basic grasp of public speaking. Similarly, the Competent Leadership manual is for members who want to improve their leadership abilities.

The feedback process is a vital part of the Toastmasters concept. “All of us know the feeling of standing in front of 15, 50, or 250 people and giving a business presentation and thinking ‘Oh my gosh, this is really scary!’ Toastmasters was designed to help members to deal with such situations by forcing you to regularly step out of your comfort zone,” says Juhás. “It may sound like a cliché, but we learn by delivering short speeches in a constructive environment where no one ever says ‘Your speech was bad. You failed.’ Rather, they give you positive comments – on how to improve your speech or the way you deliver it – for the next time,” he adds.

Toastmasters in the Czech Republic

There are a number of Toastmasters Clubs in the Czech Republic, including in Brno, Ostrava and Hradec Králové. In Prague, there are currently four Toastmasters clubs, three of which are English speaking:

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  • Amplion, a Czech-speaking club. “Join, if you are Czech native speaker or a foreigner looking for a challenge – speaking Czech in front of 20 people,” says Michal Juhás.
  • Bohemian Toastmasters, an English-speaking club that is similar to Prague Speakers (see below). This club is more informal than the others.
  • Prague Business Toastmasters is English-speaking and focuses on business-related topics. The members are mostly from the business sector too.
  • Founded in 2004, and currently representing 19 nationalities, Prague Speakers is English-speaking. “Join if you are looking for a more formal environment,” says Michal Juhás.

A German-speaking Toastmasters club is in the process of being set up in Prague.

Prague SpeakersPrague SpeakersPrague Speakers

Prague SpeakersDifferent roles during the meeting - Pardubice Toastmasters ClubToastmasters BratislavaToastmasters Ostrava

Membership

Becoming a member of a Toastmasters Club is a little bit more complicated than simply going along to a club and filling in an application form: the procedure involves a few steps. Firstly, you can visit a local club (see   below for details) as a guest. You can try out all of the clubs and can visit more than once. Clubs advise you to email them or call in advance to confirm when and where a group meets. At a meeting you can ask the vice president for a membership application form and then submit it and the membership fee (approximately CZK 1300, depending on the club). Once you become a member, through approval by the existing members, the club officer will forward your application and fees to Toastmasters’ World Headquarters.

If you’re an expat and you move to another location, you can take your Toastmasters International membership with you. Part of the fee is a one-off payment to the Toastmasters organization itself, so if you move to a new town, you don’t need to pay again, although you must pay to join the new club.

An expat participant’s perspective – Ryan Viguerie

Ryan Viguerie is from the USA and founder of Teacher-Creature.com, a website for searching for language teachers. He has lived in Prague since 2004 and joined the Prague Business Toastmasters Club in May 2012. He heard about Toastmasters from his sister. “One New Year’s Eve I watched her give a speech at a networking event, and she totally bombed. She was so disappointed with herself that she swore that she would get this public speaking thing sorted out. So she started going to a local Toastmasters club. The next year I watched her speak at the same event and she was a different person. She’s now in business for herself, making a lot more money, and a local authority in her field.”

Seeing his sister’s progress inspired him to join the Prague Business Toastmasters Group, which meets at the Hub Praha coworking center. “I went along and immediately could see the advantages of Toastmasters. I liked the people and I joined. The idea is that at each meeting you should all have the opportunity to speak and get feedback. It can be for 15 minutes or 1 minute.”

What has he learned so far? “It’s not just about getting rid of the butterflies. There’s body language, voice tone, getting the audience’s attention, structuring your message, and so on. It’s a fascinating hobby with so many benefits for other areas of your life.”

Contacts
For more information about Toastmasters in Prague see http://www.praguetoastmasters.cz/join. See also http://preco.uhk.cz/tm/ (in Czech) for details of clubs in other cities.

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