The Toastmasters Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership Manuals are the heart of the Toastmasters International educational program.
The Competent Communicator Manual – consists of ten speech projects, each building upon the other in skills and difficulty. For each project, the member will prepare and deliver a speech in front of the group. After the member has given the presentation, it will be evaluated by another Toastmaster. This near-immediate feedback provides the member information on how he or she can improve his or her presentation skills for the next speech. Upon completion of the Competent Communicator Manual, a Toastmaster is entitled to the designation Competent Communicator, and may add the initials CC to his or her name.
The Competent Leadership Manual is used in a similar fashion. The member works through ten leadership projects, working on leadership skills such as giving feedback, critical thinking, team building and others. Most of these leadership projects consist of multiple assignments accomplished at meetings over a period of time.
When giving a speech at Toastmasters meetings, a member is expected to speak within a prescribed time limit. For most basic manual speeches, this limit is 5 to 7 minutes. For advanced program speeches, the limit can vary, with the maximum usually at 10 minutes; some of the advanced speech projects can be up to 30 minutes.
At the conclusion of the speeches, other members will evaluate the speeches. The intent is to provide a positive experience for the speaker, encouraging him or her to build on the skills already learned and to improve other speaking and listening skills. This also creates opportunity for members to provide constructive feedback to help one another improve. In addition to providing the speaker with feedback the evaluator learns important skills in quickly preparing a presentation and listening skills.
The distinctive feature of Toastmasters is the continual evaluation. Each activity at a club is evaluated: speeches are evaluated both orally at the meeting and in the member’s manual. In some clubs, even the evaluators are themselves evaluated at the end of the meeting by a “General Evaluator”, also a club member.
After getting their CC, 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. Completing two of these advanced manuals, and fulfilling some other requirements, will earn the Toastmaster concerned the title of ‘Advanced Communicator,’ abbreviated AC. There are three degrees of AC called the Bronze, Silver and Gold level – thus a person may be called ACB, ACS or ACG.
Membership is open to all people over the age of 18 wishing to improve their communications skills.