Toastmasters: A Winning Format



Public Relations Speech 1:
The Public Relations Speech

by Luke Setzer

Tonight I'd like to have your undivided attention for a few minutes to talk about a problem with the Objectivist movement that has puzzled me for some time, and to propose a solution to that problem.

It has been over 40 years since Ayn Rand's novel ATLAS SHRUGGED was published, 15 years since the establishment of the Ayn Rand Institute and 11 years since The Objectivist Center was formed. There are clubs like ours all over the world.

As members of an Objectivist club, I'm sure you all have certain basic expectations. I suspect these would include:

  1. An opportunity to learn and share new insights about Objectivism.
  2. An opportunity to be heard.
  3. A structured meeting format.
  4. A sincere feeling of accomplishment and growth.
  5. A sense of community with others of similar values.

The problem is that these clubs have no coherent format for their meetings. Hence, you have clubs like ours that are left to their own devices to develop formats that may very well not work. People join Objectivist clubs to learn more about the philosophy, but they may not leave every meeting feeling as if they've accomplished anything worthwhile.

The question I have asked myself for the last couple of months is: Now that we have a regular meeting location and time every month, what can we do to improve our actual get-togethers?

When people look at the decay of our culture, they often ask, "What can one do?" Cheerfully, Ayn Rand addressed that very topic: "If you want to influence a country's intellectual trend, the first step is to bring order to your own ideas and integrate them into a consistent case, to the best of your knowledge and ability. ... When or if your convictions are in your conscious, orderly control, you will be able to communicate them to others. ... [W]hen you ask, 'What can one do?' - the answer is 'SPEAK' (provided you know what you are saying)."

Happily for Objectivists, there already exists a large, well-respected organization dedicated to helping its members to improve their listening, thinking and speaking skills. It has 75 years of training and three million trainees under its belt, and generations of experience have refined its manuals and programs. Its members boast thousands of training clubs worldwide and pride themselves on being able to convey large amounts of useful information in hour-long meetings. If you're looking for an organization outside the Objectivist movement that embraces the moral ideal of rational self-interest, look no further than Toastmasters International.

My proposal is to use the Toastmasters club meeting format as a backbone for our Objectivist club meetings. This format can squeeze large amounts of productive communication into a time frame of just over an hour. This leaves ample time afterwards for our usual socializing and shooting the breeze.

How exactly would this work? The paper I'm passing out now is my adaptation of a standard Toastmasters agenda tailored to suit our purposes. Let's walk through the agenda together, and note how we can achieve the benefits I described a few minutes ago.

  1. We open the meeting by reciting Galt's oath. This fosters our sense of shared values.
  2. We follow this with a Word of the Day and a Reading to stimulate our growth and mastery of Objectivist terms.
  3. Next, the Laughmaster can help us to cultivate a uniquely Objectivist sense of humor.
  4. The central feature of a Toastmasters meeting is the sequence of manual speeches. Typically, we have three members each offer a 5-7 minute original speech to satisfy a training manual project. For those meetings where we have no speakers, we can easily substitute a moderated discussion using the formats from the advanced Toastmasters manual "The Discussion Leader". Speakers and moderators are evaluated later in the meeting.
  5. After the speeches are done, we have a "Table Topics" session. The Table Topics master has a list of five or so topics and solicits responses from random members of the audience. This helps participants to learn how to think on their feet and convey their ideas in 1-2 minutes.
  6. At this point, I want to emphasize that members who have discomfort with public speaking can learn to overcome that discomfort in a supportive atmosphere. No one will be forced to participate.
  7. The use of Evaluations as well as the Grammarian's and Timer's reports can improve our ability to communicate our ideas to others.
  8. At the end of each segment, ballots are cast for best speaker, evaluator and Table Topics speaker, and ribbons are given to the winners at the end of the meeting. This is a social recognition of achievement.

Here's the bottom line: True synergy can be accomplished by marrying the valid philosophical principles of Objectivism with the valid meeting format of Toastmasters. Objectivist club members can enjoy the benefits of productive, intellectually stimulating meetings by following in the footsteps of Toastmasters International.

Starting tonight, we'll use this format for our meetings and refine it to optimize its service to our interests. I predict that by June, we'll have enough experience to be able to share this approach with other Objectivist clubs and start a trend. Ambitious though I may sound, my vision is to promote the formation of a global network of "Objectivist Toastmasters" clubs to promote Ayn Rand's ideas worldwide. Let's develop the new territory that Ayn Rand pioneered for us, and fulfill the Objectivist vision of a reality-oriented, reason-based moral revolution in the name of the best within us.


Objectivism 101
Objectivism 101