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Create a Corporate Club

By Paul Sterman

Have you considered starting a Toastmasters club at your workplace? Of Toastmasters International’s more than 12,500 clubs around the world, many are sponsored by businesses or organizations. Corporate clubs exist in more than 100 countries.

While many corporate clubs are specifically intended for employees, some are also open to the public. Meetings are held on company premises, typically during lunch time or off hours. Some of the most famous names in business have in-house clubs, including AT&T, Microsoft, Bank of America, Chevron, Google and eBay.

Why such popularity? In a nutshell, corporate clubs give employees the confidence and skills to help them flourish in their jobs. As in any other Toastmasters club, members develop their communication and leadership abilities by filling meeting roles, participating in Table Topics and giving prepared speeches. The result is that corporate-club members deliver stronger presentations at work, lead more productive staff meetings and relate better with clients and colleagues.

“It’s critical in the business world to communicate as quickly and concisely as possible without creating ambiguity in the message,” says Balakrishnan Arasapan, who helped charter a club in Singapore for Caterpillar Inc., the world’s leading producer of construction and mining equipment.

Marsha James Davis belonged to a club at Northrop Grumman Corporation when she worked for the defense contractor, primarily as a budget analyst. She says the Toastmasters training improved her self-esteem at work.

“When I started taking on leadership roles, like club officer positions, area governor, division governor and district governor, that’s when [my confidence] really kicked in,” says Davis, who worked at the company’s aerospace-systems facility in El Segundo, California. “I found myself speaking up more in business meetings. Then I got a promotion and started making more presentations to management and to customers.” She also gained leadership skills, culminating in her service on Toastmasters International’s Board of Directors from 1999 to 2001.

Members of corporate clubs say Toastmasters meetings also boost camaraderie among employees and provide opportunities to interact – and network – with individuals in other departments of their companies.

Taking Steps
So how can you go about chartering a club at your workplace? The key is gaining the support of a decision maker there, someone who can authorize the creation of a club. Start by scheduling an appointment with your organization’s human resources director or another high-level executive. At the meeting, you’ll want to present the benefits of the Toastmasters program. Come prepared. 

A helpful tool is Toastmasters’ Features, Benefits and Value chart – it details the many ways that a company and its employees can gain and grow from a Toastmasters club. Yet another good resource for presenting the benefits of a corporate club is the PowerPoint slideshow and notes that can be accessed on the Toastmasters website. The links are on the Virtual Brand Portal (toward the bottom, in the section marked “Corporate Marketing”).

Ultimately, you’ll want to arrange a sample Toastmasters meeting at your workplace, which shows how club meetings are conducted and demonstrates advantages of the program. You should gather at least eight experienced Toastmasters for the meeting, each of whom will fill a meeting role.

(You can find more information about how to prepare a demonstration meeting in “How to Build a Toastmasters Club: A Step-by-Step Guide,” on the Toastmasters website.)

Supporting the Cause
If a company agrees to sponsor a club, it can choose to offer some type of support. This can include different options, such as:

  • Paying the club’s one-time chartering fee
  • Paying for (or reimbursing) full or partial membership dues and new-member fees
  • Paying for club materials
  • Providing the meeting location
  • Providing employee incentives for completing Toastmasters goals

Thousands of businesses and organizations have decided corporate clubs are a valuable investment of resources. Among them is State Street Corporation, a financial-services giant headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. The company has clubs in offices around the world, including Sydney, Australia; Paris, France; and Toronto, Canada.

“The benefits of confident and well-structured speakers representing our business, both internally and externally, are undeniable,” says State Street Executive Vice President Stefan Gmür, “and Toastmasters is an excellent way to allow employees to develop these skills.”

To learn more about forming a club, read “Bring Toastmasters into your Company or Community.” If you are interested in setting up a demonstration meeting at your workplace, contact  

Paul Sterman is an associate editor of the Toastmaster magazine and a member of Le Gourmet Toastmasters in Costa Mesa, California.