Sometimes I listen to, or read the transcripts from Lisa B. Marshall’s podcast blog The Public Speaker. Her May 15 episode, #43, was titled Does Toastmasters Work? (She said it did). The next day I added a comment, and then later looked again to see what else was being said.
I was appalled to find the following 4-point, 220 word diatribe against Toastmasters posted on Sunday, May 17 by Jeff Hurt (paragraphing added by me):
“As someone who has hired more than 2,500 professional speakers, a professional educator by trade, a trainer for more than 20 years and an event and meeting planner, I do not recommend Toastmasters. As a matter of fact, I automatically discard any speaker candidate that I'm considering that lists Toastmasters on their reference.
Likewise, anyone wanting to improve their presentation skills should NOT take Toastmasters. They should take a class on "Presenting With The Brain In Mind" or "Presentation Skills: How To Use Good Adult Learning Tools." Why do I say this? I have several reasons.
1) Toastmaters (sic) is about lecturing an audience. It is not about a hands-on interactive presentation engaging an audience and using good two-way communication.
2) Toastmasters does not focus on good pedagogy-adult learning skills and styles. Again, the focus is only on the speaker delivering a controlled message, not the speaker adapting to an audience's needs.
3) Toastmasters puts the focus on the speaker, not the audience or the attendee. It's not about the speaker, it's about the learner. It's not about "Being the sage from the stage but the guide on the side."
4) Most of Toastmasters methods are outdated and antiquated. I'll stop there for now as there are many, many more reasons not to attend or recommend Toastmasters for presentations skills.”
Now, Mr. Hurt has his own blog, Midcourse Corrections. He had a rather touching post on The Beauty of Friends there on May 21, so I’m not sure why he was so upset a few days earlier. Perhaps his Sunday newspaper never came, or he ran out of coffee at breakfast.
I posted a comment in reply to Jeff’s point #1, and said: No Toastmasters is NOT just about lecturing an audience. Every Toastmasters club meeting includes practice in answering questions, a form of impromptu speaking that they call Table Topics. Go look here on their web site. Then I said that I'll stop here for now as there are many, many more reasons not to listen further to Jeff.
He never replied to my comment, so I’m going to continue my reply here. Regarding his points #2 and #3, I don’t think he knows what Toastmasters actually has been teaching. One of the modules in their Better Speaker Series (#275) is titled Know Your Audience. It contains the following paragraph about training on page 10 of the 1994 version:
“The traditional training session suffers from a bad reputation – perhaps deservedly so! Attendance is generally required, and most trainers have a tendency to talk at their audience, rather than encouraging interaction and involvement. You can disarm a resigned-to-be-bored audience, however, with a creative presentation that not only encourages but expects audience members to participate.”
Doesn’t that sound very similar to what Mr. Hurt said? So much for Toastmasters being outdated!