August 27, 2014

Professional Development

Improve Your Public Speaking Skills with Liberty Toastmasters

By: Casey Given


Washington, DC is a town all about talk. Whether it’s casually talking to a new acquaintance about your organization’s mission or formally giving a policy presentation at a conference, every professional should possess quality speaking skills. Particularly here in the belly of the beast, professionals in the liberty movement need to clearly articulate our ideas to an audience that might not always be convinced. After all, DC is not renown for being the most liberty-friendly city in America!

That’s where Liberty Toastmasters comes in, Washington, DC’s only speech-giving club specifically tailored to libertarians and conservatives. We meet twice a month to provide a safe space for professionals in the movement to practice their public speaking and receive feedback for improvement. As an official affiliate of Toastmasters International, we run a self-improvement program that has been proven to work since its formation in 1924. Best of all, our doors are wide open for anyone in the movement and beyond to participate.

What exactly happens at a Toastmasters meeting? First, the meeting is called to order, appropriately, by the Toastmaster — the host for the evening who introduces speakers and guides the meeting along. After evaluation roles are assigned, typically three speeches are made between 5-7 minutes. These speeches can be on any topic the speaker desires, although many members of Liberty Toastmasters prefer to address issues of public policy since we’re a specifically political group. Shortly after the speech, each member is critiqued by an evaluator on how their performance fared compared to the expectation laid out in the Toastmasters handbook.

Each speechmaker is also evaluated by separate members on time, grammar, and how many times they used a crutch such as “umm” or “ahh” in their speech. While each participant receives a rigorous evaluation, it is by no means rude. We are sure to emphasize in each meeting that Toastmasters is a friendly space for everyone to improve their public speaking skills together without condescension.

In fact, it’s fun! Besides the typical agenda of three speeches, most meetings also have a Table Topics section in which members present have the opportunity to think on their feet by providing a 1-2 minute answer to a random (and often humorous) question. After the meeting, members often head down to the local pub for happy hour to keep the club’s atmosphere professional yet friendly.

I highly encourage any young professional in DC interested in speechmaking to check out Liberty Toastmasters. I personally have seen the wonders it can do in improving speech. Two years ago, I moved to DC with little public speaking skills and a policy analyst position that required quite a lot of talking. Liberty Toastmasters helped me deliver policy presentations with more poise (and without those nasty “umms”). Two years later, I am now the president of a growing club, with seemingly more excited young professionals every meeting!

If you’re interested in joining us, I encourage you to check out our website and Facebook Group. We meet the second and fourth Monday of every month at The Loft (600 F St NW, Suite 300) from 6:30-7:30. For both the sake of liberty and personal improvement, I hope to see you there!


Casey Given is an editor at Young Voices, a policy project of Students For Liberty aiming to promote young libertarians’ voice in the media. He is also president of Liberty Toastmasters, Washington, DC’s only libertarian-oriented speechmaking club.