Toastmasters International is a non-profit, educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.
Toastmasters International Mission
We empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.
We build new clubs and support all clubs in achieving excellence.
We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.
Toastmasters International Core Values
Toastmasters International Envisioned Future
To be the first-choice provider of dynamic, high-value, experiential communication and leadership skills development.
The Toastmasters International Journey
Toastmasters International began as a series of speaking clubs organized by Ralph C. Smedley during his time working for the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in Bloomington, Illinois. 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.
Smedley decided to organize a club where they could learn these skills in a social environment. The concept was well received by the men in the clubs. “Toastmaster” was a popular term to refer to a person who gave toasts at banquets and other special occasions, thus came Ralph Smedley’s naming of the group, the Toastmasters Club.
The first unofficial Toastmasters International meeting was held on March 24, 1905. Much like Toastmasters International meetings today, the participants took turns leading and speaking at each meeting. Smedley and the more experienced men evaluated short speeches, while the younger men were invited to join in the evaluations. However, as Smedley was offered positions at other YMCA’s in Illinois, and later in San Jose, California, the fledgling clubs lacked leadership and did not flourish.
Smedley began working at the newly organized YMCA in Santa Ana, California, in 1922, 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 first meeting was held at the YMCA building on October 22, 1924. Word spread about Smedley’s Toastmasters clubs and soon people in surrounding communities and other states were asking how they could start their own club.
To save time replying to the many letters and inquiries he was receiving, Smedley wrote the “Manual of Instructions” and “Ten Lessons in Public Speaking,” which he had printed and bound in paper covers. On October 25, 1928, he secured copyrights on the publications and trademarked the name “Toastmasters Club.”
By 1930, nearly 30 Toastmasters clubs had formed including a club in British Columbia, Canada. To reflect expansion outside of the United States, the newly formed association was re-named Toastmasters International. Two years later, in 1932, Toastmasters International was incorporated as a California non-profit organization and Smedley took on the positions of Secretary and Editor of the new association. He resigned as YMCA Secretary in 1941 to devote more time to Toastmasters. He died in 1965. Toastmasters International celebrated its 95th anniversary in October, 2019.
Toastmasters International Timeline
1922- 1924 Smedley worked at the newly organized YMCA in Santa Ana, California, where he spent much of his time building a home for the organization. April 1924 – new YMCA building was christened; Smedley introduced the idea of Toastmasters to his colleagues.
Oct. 22, 1924 – The Toastmasters club that became Club No. 1 of Toastmasters International held its first meeting at the YMCA building. Word spread about Smedley’s Toastmasters clubs and soon people in surrounding communities and other states were asking how they could start their own club. Smedley wrote the “Manual of Instructions” and “Ten Lessons in Public Speaking,” which he had printed and bound in paper covers to save time replying to the many letters of inquiries he was receiving.
October 25, 1928 – Smedley secured copyrights on the publications and trademarked the name “Toastmasters Club.”
1930 – Nearly 30 Toastmasters clubs had formed including a club in British Columbia, Canada. The association was re-named Toastmasters International to reflect expansion outside of the United States.
1932 – Toastmasters International was incorporated as a California non-profit organization and Smedley took on the positions of Secretary and Editor of the new association.
1941 – Smedley resigned as YMCA Secretary to devote more time to Toastmasters. Through the years of the war, he operated the organization out of a small office. When the war ended, Ted Blanding replaced Smedley as Secretary, but remained active as Educational Director and member of the Board of Directors for the remainder of his life.
1962 – The staff moved into the first World Headquarters building in Santa Ana, not far from the YMCA where the first Toastmasters club met. from the series of rented office spaces in Southern California
1965 – Ralph C. Smedley dies at age 87.
1970 – Toastmasters International admitted its first female member, Helen Blanchard, under the name Homer Blanchard.
1973 – Toastmasters International began officially admitting women.
1985 – Helen Blanchard became the first female Toastmasters International President.
1975-2001 Terrence McCann, an Olympic wrestler, was chosen to serve as the Executive Director.
1991 – World Headquarters moves from Santa Ana to Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.
2001-2008 Donna Groh replaced McCann as Executive Director.
2008 to present – Daniel Rex has held the position of Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer.
2011 – Toastmasters International refreshes and updates Brand, Logo, Website, and Tagline
2018 – World Headquarters is now located at 9127 South Jamaica St. in Englewood, a city in the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan area, in Colorado. Toastmasters International employs more than 150 professionals at World Headquarters.
2018 – present – Pathways Learning Experience is fully implemented to replace the Toastmasters Educational Program
October 2019 – Toastmasters International celebrates its 95th anniversary.