Managing Your Toastmasters Materials

The longer we remain active in Toastmasters, the more expansive and diverse our experience becomes. Inevitably, the same thing happens to the volume of resources, supplies and souvenirs we accumulate on our journey. Have you created a system that works well for you?

Some people enjoy creating complex file systems with each unique paper item labeled and catalogued. If this is not you, you may become frustrated when trying to keep track of speech notes, club newsletters, educational supplements and other documents. Similarly, you may have accumulated an assortment of props, supplies and other bulky objects that relate to past and future club activities.

You’ll not only want to store and protect all of these items, you’ll want to be able to find and access them easily. Make it your priority to identify the intended purpose for each document or object. This purpose should relate primarily to your past, current or future Toastmasters activities. Here’s a guide to help you cope with all these things. Start by dividing materials into these three groups: Those of sentimental value, those in current use, and those intended for the future. 

Items of Sentimental Value
Celebrating achievement is a vital element in our Toastmasters experience. It makes sense to preserve physical objects that allow us to savor these memories and share them with others. However, these items deserve a space where they will be protected and honored, not stored in boxes or mingled with the resources you will use in current and future projects. 

Ribbons, certificates, trophies and plaques: The most meaningful moment generated by an award occurs when that trophy, ribbon or certificate is received. You are fortunate if someone took a photo at that event, so you can include it in your personal archives. The award itself can be displayed in your home or workspace, where it not only will remind you of your achievement but can open the door for others to notice and respond with interest.

Trophies can be arranged on shelves; certificates can be framed and hung. Plaques can be secured on a wall or a desk easel. Ribbons can be scrapbooked or arranged in a cheerful wall display. If you find yourself with too many trophies or ribbons, ask your club’s vice president education (VPE) whether they are suitable for re-use. (You can often remove the personalized engraved plates from trophies, and preserve these in a shadow box or scrapbook.) 

Speech notes, props and documents from past presentations or Toastmasters events: Some members automatically dispose of these items immediately after using them; others feel the urge to retain mementos and documents. Again, a photo may be the best way to preserve memories of your prop-driven speeches, especially if these items are large and unlikely to be used again. If you choose to keep speech notes, put them into a file folder or large envelope with the name and date of your speech, so you can easily access them again for future projects.

Old meeting agendas, contest programs and event memorabilia that you want to keep should be separated from your current documents and stored safely in a box or scrapbook, along with photos, ribbons and other small objects that relate to the events themselves. Remember to make note of details such as people’s names, so you can preserve information as well as sentiment! 

Personal storehouse of educational materials: If you find yourself overwhelmed with too many accumulated Toastmasters supplies, it is a good time to consider sharing your bounty with other members. If you have already gained the benefit you sought from speech contest videos and other materials, you may want to pass them on to newer members you are mentoring. You could also donate some of these to your club, as a way of establishing a lending library for all members to enjoy. 

Club officer documents and related materials: If you have been re-elected to the same office, you might assume the same reference materials can be used for your next year of service. However, official Toastmasters documents are updated regularly. It is fine to keep past manuals and documents as mementos, but don’t plan on using them as reference for current or future activities. Only current reference materials should be at your side when handling official club business such as a contest or election. 

Items in Current Use
There are many resources available from World Headquarters (WHQ) and your local district, as well as your club. Discretion may be necessary to avoid accumulating too much in your personal collection; try to keep your active files limited to materials that will be of practical use to you now and in the near future. 

Current manual and speech notes: Use separate folders or envelopes to hold each project, and resist the urge to work on too many assignments at one time. If your notes for future Toastmasters presentations are kept in an easily accessible location, you can continue to add new data as you find it.

After your current speech has been presented, it will be easy to select and develop your next project. Be sure to alert your VPE that you are planning another speech, and reserve a date in advance. This commitment will serve as a motivator, and it will sustain your momentum as you progress within the educational program. 

Completed speech assignments and evaluation forms: Project descriptions and evaluation notes from past speeches are not merely sentimental; they should be kept in a place where you can review them during the preparation of your next speech. This will help to focus your energy on specific areas where you hope to improve. (For instance, if you’ve received several evaluations that mention a need to sustain eye contact, you may decide to create a speech that requires you to interact with individual audience members.) 

The Toastmaster magazine back issues: Every issue contains a wealth of information about diverse subjects. If you keep your copies accessible, they are a rich resource for practical application as well as speech material. If you do not want to keep the magazines for yourself, donate them to your club where they can be made available to guests and other members. 

Current club officer materials: Most manuals and booklets from WHQ fit neatly into 3-ring binders. If it is manageable for you, a 3-inch binder will probably hold all of your essential educational and club officer reference materials. If one large binder is too bulky, you may prefer to divide your officer and member materials into separate, slimmer binders. Whichever system you use, it should allow you to keep relevant documents accessible when addressing your personal and club commitments.

Items for Future Use
You may be accumulating many resources that you are not ready to use yet. If you own several unused advanced manuals and reference materials, take time to divide them into specific categories and store them in binders or labeled envelopes so you can find them again at the appropriate time. This will reduce distraction and help you focus your energy on immediate projects.

One of the most satisfying ways to streamline all the excess paper in your life is to extract speech material from it. Whether you tend to collect data about public speaking, professional development, hobbies or historical events, one of the best ways to absorb it is to review, organize and edit the most essential details into a well-crafted speech. By the time you have presented your material to an audience, it will have become a part of your personal storehouse of knowledge. You’ll feel more comfortable about letting go of excess resource materials.

Remember that while all of these resources and mementos enrich our Toastmasters learning experience, Toastmasters learn by doing. Preserve meaningful mementos, organize relevant resources, but focus your energy on creating, practicing and presenting your manual assignments and fulfilling your current club responsibilities. This will allow you to maximize the benefits of participating in TI’s communication and leadership program.

Shelia Spencer, DTM, is a member of the Midtown Toastmasters club in New York and a freelance writer. She can be reached at