Toastmasters was founded in1924 on October 22nd in Santa Ana, California by Dr Ralph C Smedley in the basement of the local YMCA. The group called itself “Toastmasters” and its aim was “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. This group eventually became Club No. 1 of Toastmasters International and it still meets today.
Word quickly spread out in the local area and soon other clubs started in nearby Anaheim and Los Angeles. By 1930 nearly 30 clubs had formed including the first international club in British Columbia, Canada. At the same time Dr Smedley wrote the first manual the Manual of Instructions and Ten Lessons in Public Speaking. The ancestors of today’s Competent Communication and Competent Leadership manuals.
The organisation has carried on its growth since the 1930s with the first London club opening its door in 1981 and there are now over 70 clubs in London alone. Currently, Europe, Asia and Africa are Toastmasters main growth areas worldwide. Membership reached 200 000 in 2004 but has since surpassed that number to exceed 300 000 in 2014 and is expected to increase further to 350 000 in the coming years.
Currently, the organisation is embarking on a very ambitious project to completely revamp its educational programme to meet the requirements of the 21st century. Most notably in terms of e-learning and tailored learning experiences. This new Revitalized Educational Programme is expected to be fully rolled-out around 2018.