As we grow in our Toastmasters experience, we sometimes see the need for a greater challenge. And that frequently involves receiving a stronger level of feedback after our speeches. If that sounds like you, then you might want to consider joining an advanced club.
What exactly is an advanced club?
When we start as Toastmasters, we learn the basic speaking skills. As we grow in our speaking abilities, we take those basic skills to the next level. Advanced clubs are primarily made up of experienced Toastmasters who want to grow more rapidly than those in a typical club. They are Toastmasters who want to set a higher bar. The main difference between a basic and an advanced club is the level or type of feedback.
In a typical club, the evaluations are focused on encouragement. You get a lot of praise and then a gently stated suggestion or two. In an advanced club, the feedback can be more direct. As a veteran Toastmaster, I prefer the advanced clubs that are what I describe as “kind but candid.” You receive positive feedback, but you also hear what you need to hear. And if you have excellent speakers in the group, the feedback is that much better.
In addition, the evaluation is frequently presented in a different way in an advanced club. I have been a member of four advanced clubs, and each has its own unique format. Powerhouse Pros (a humor club), has the standard 2- to 3-minute evaluation, plus a 1- to 2-minute humor evaluation. Second Stage club starts with three 30-second comments from selected members, followed by the standard evaluation. Pro Toastmasters starts with the standard evaluation, followed by three minutes of round-robin comments, where any member can give feedback. And then there’s Jackpot Speakers. When you finish your speech at that club, you sit down in a chair at the front of the room and receive 10 to 15 minutes of round-robin comments. This is not for the faint of heart.
“The main difference between a basic and an advanced club is the level or type of feedback.”
If you think an advanced club sounds like what you’re looking for, visit one to see what it is like. You can search the Toastmasters International website through “Find a Club” and check the “Advanced Club” box. But recognize that many regular clubs also provide a higher level of feedback. They just don’t call themselves “advanced.” Your real goal is to find a club that fits your interests and personality, regardless of its label.
The area, division and district speech contests are another source of information about advanced clubs. No, they don’t advertise there, but it is quite common to see members of those clubs making it to the higher levels. Attend those contests. If you like a speaker’s style, check out that person’s club.
When you visit a club, ask yourself two questions. The first is, “Am I comfortable with their form of feedback?” The second is, “Will I receive the level of feedback I am looking for?” I suspect you will know right away if the club is for you.
If you join an advanced club, should you leave your primary club? Absolutely not. First of all, you have the opportunity at the regular club to help newer members. That is part of leadership, and they can benefit from what you are learning at the advanced club. In addition, your current club provides opportunities to speak. The more you speak, the more you grow. On top of that, I have found that the newer members will give you different feedback from the experienced ones, helping you grow even more.
Furthermore, if you like to compete in speech contests, you probably don’t want to limit yourself to just an advanced club. Let’s face it, if all the best speakers in your area or division are in one club, only one of you will advance to the area level. A second club gives you a second opportunity to compete.
Advanced clubs are not for everybody, but they are perfect for many experienced Toastmasters. If you visit advanced clubs and don’t find what you’re looking for, consider starting one yourself. You’re probably not the only one wanting to reach for the next level.
I have found advanced clubs to be a rewarding experience, and perhaps you will too. We learn best when we are challenged to grow.
Watch this video to hear real members talk about their Toastmasters experience at all levels.