Our Toastmasters club has a learning-by-doing ethos, whereby each member learns at a pace suitable to his or her developmental needs. The Toastmasters educational program is divided into two separate tracks – Communication and Leadership, with members progressing along each track by presenting speeches and taking on roles within the club.
Competent Communicator Award (CC)
At the heart of the Toastmasters educational program or curriculum is Competent Communication manual. The Competent Communication manual consists of ten speech projects, each one building upon the previous level in skills and difficulty. For each project, the member prepares and delivers a speech in front of the club. Speakers are expected to keep their presentations within time limits. For most Competent Communication speeches, the limit is five to seven minutes. The Icebreaker (CC Manual, Project 1) is between 4–6 minutes. This first speech is intended to allow you to introduce yourself to the club in a relaxed and supportive environment. Thereafter, projects are five to seven minutes. After the member gives the presentation, another Toastmaster (Speech Evaluator) evaluates the presenter based on the criteria for each project. The distinctive feature of Toastmasters is this continual evaluation. Each activity at our club is evaluated: speeches are evaluated both orally at the meeting and in the member’s manual. This near-immediate feedback provides the member with information on how he or she can improve his or her presentation skills for the next speech, and is intended to provide a positive experience for the speaker. Typically, the structure of a Toastmaster Evaluation might be referred to as the “feedback sandwich,” the “PIP” (praise, improve, praise) method, or the “CRC” (commend, recommend, commend) method.
After completing the ten Competent Communication projects, a member is entitled to the Competent Communicator award, and may add the CC to their name for Toastmasters purposes.
Competent Leader Award (CL)
When a person joins a Toastmasters club, they are given a copy of the Competent Leadership manual, which contains ten projects which can be completed by serving in various meeting roles, as well as participating in and/or organizing club contests, membership campaigns, and PR campaigns in their club. This manual can be completed in as little as five to six months, although most members will take more time to complete its projects. Upon completion, a member can obtain his or her Competent Leader award (post-nominal CL). After completing the Competent Leadership manual, members can go on toward the Advanced Leader awards, which are given in two levels, Bronze and Silver (with post-nominal ALB and ALS, respectively). The Bronze level requirements include serving a minimum of six months as a club officer, participating in the creation of a club success plan while in office, and attending officer training. As well, ALB candidates must have attained their Competent Communicator award, and conducted two educational programs from Toastmasters’ The Successful Club Series and/or The Leadership Excellence Series. For AL Silver, the additional requirements of serving a year as a district officer, completing a High Performance Leadership program, and being a club sponsor, mentor, or coach are needed to attain that designation.
After achieving their CC and CL awards, the Toastmaster then can go on to more advanced projects. There are 15 advanced manuals in the Toastmasters program, each consisting of five projects. These include projects on sales presentations, speaking to inform, speeches by management, interpretative reading, speaking on television, entertaining dinner speaking, communicating with news media, interpersonal communication, and others. The Advanced Communicator awards are given to members who complete two manuals per level as well as performing various other duties. There are three levels of Advanced Communicator, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, with the respective post-nominals ACB, ACS, and ACG
And in time, for those who ascend through the Advanced Toastmaster awards, the ultimate prize is:
Distinguished Toastmaster Award (DTM)
The Toastmasters educational program, at its highest level, awards the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), to members who have achieved both the Advanced Communication Gold and Advanced Leader Silver awards. To achieve the DTM typically takes five to eight years of dedicated service and leadership in at the local club and area (or higher) levels. DTM candidates must also perform more than 40 public presentations (as part of earning the prerequisite Competent Communicator and Advanced Communicator awards). More than 20,000 of Toastmaster’s 4 million past and present members have achieved the elite DTM status. Some dedicated Toastmasters members have achieved multiple DTM designations. Members who have earned their DTM are usually honored and presented with a medal at a district conference following their achievement. The Distinguished Toastmaster title is not necessarily the end of the journey for most Toastmasters. Many Toastmasters will re-enter the program and repeat it at least once more. Every iteration through the program affords the individual additional experience in either the chosen direction or a totally new direction at their discretion.