Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization has more than 292,000 memberships in more than14,350 clubs in 122 countries.

Since Toastmasters began, more than two million men and women have benefited from the communication and leadership programs of the organisation. The first club was formed in October 1924, when a group of men assembled by Dr Ralph C Smedley met in the basement of the Santa Ana, California YMCA.  The aim, “to afford practice and training” in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.

The group took the name “Toastmasters”.

A year later, a second club was started in Anaheim, California, followed by a third in Los Angeles.  By 1930 it was apparent that a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the clubs and to provide standard methods.  After formation of a club in Victoria, British Columbia, the group became known as Toastmasters International.

Growth was slow during the early years, but the number of clubs increased steadily.   The forerunner of today’s Communication and Leadership program, Basic Training, was introduced in 1942 and has been expanded and updated many times since then to keep abreast of the times and members’ needs.

Membership in Toastmasters International increased rapidly after the end of World War II and by 1954 the number of Toastmasters clubs had approached 1500.

Gavel Clubs were formed in 1958 to accommodate groups wanting Toastmasters training but not qualified for Toastmasters membership.  These clubs provide communication and leadership training in correctional institutions, hospitals and schools.  In 1966, the Youth Leadership Program, for young people in junior and senior high school, was added to the list of established community programs being presented by Toastmasters.

In 1973, Toastmasters membership was opened to women.  This change enabled everyone to benefit from the Toastmasters programme of self-development.

There have been many improvements to the education program over the years to meet the ever-changing needs of the members.
Leadership has become a stronger focus and this reflects in the introduction of the Competent Leadership manual introduced in 2006.

Toastmasters International continues to grow every year and Dr Ralph D Smedley would be proud to know that, because of his dedication, millions of lives will be changed throughout the world.





A profile of Toastmasters members

Female Members


Earn $100K+ annually


ages 18-34 y.o.


bachelor degree or higher


master degree or higher


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