Strolling the Town: Toastmasters

Jan 24, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Strolling The Town, Tom Sims

by Tom Sims

Tom Sims covers the Tower District, Downtown Fresno, and Old Town Clovis in his monthly column Strolling the Town.
We feel these are three areas in this Valley that are filled with history, culture and interesting stories. So join us each month as Tom goes Strolling!

If strolling is your thing and if you like meeting new people, there will be no excuses for being sedentary or lonely after you read this article. If you live in or around Fresno, pick a day of the week and there is a place to gather with friendly people, exchange ideas, and be supported in your own growth.

I am not referring to a self-help group like A.A.

I am referring to Toastmasters!

Toastmasters International is a 90-year-old organization with this mission:

“We empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.”

Additionally, every club has this mission:

“We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.”


Tom and Disinguished Toastmaster and Past District Gov Jesse Oakly III

In Fresno and Clovis alone, there are fourteen clubs. There are also two in Visalia, one in Exeter, one in Tulare, and one in Porterville. In addition, new clubs are in formation.

Fresno Deputy Police Chief Bob Nevarez gives Toastmasters credit for the advancement of his career. After the rank of Sergeant, police officers have to start making presentations. Otherwise, they cannot advance. At that stage of his life, Bob had no confidence as a speaker and fear of speaking. That is when he found Toastmasters.

It saved his career as he will tell anyone who will listen.

Toastmasters has 313,000 members in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries.

One day, several years ago, I had the chat function open on Facebook and a conversation was initiated by a young woman named, Suzie. Suzie is an English teacher from Indonesia. She told me that she was a Toastmaster, meeting other Toastmasters from around the world. A friendship developed and I became very interested in her young, professional, and growing club in Jakarta. I have followed he progress since that time.

Toastmasters facilitates friendships locally and internationally.

At Federal Toastmasters, the name has nothing to do with the members’ professions, but only with the history.
Longtime member, Paul Martzen will tell you that it is a club of “philosophers,” an eclectic mix of people from various walks of life and persuasions who support each other and really enjoy getting together.


Anita Sorenson and Paul Martzen at TM Club

Paul, a successful photographer and facilitator, often lingers after meetings to coach and mentor new members on their speeches and leadership roles.

Making speeches is one of the activities that helps define Toastmasters. Another is rotating leadership. Everyone, eventually, gets to fulfill every meeting role. When they do, there is always written material and personal coaching available to get them through and help them to become successful.

In recent years, Federal has had several members come to the club and work through its formal, self-paced educational program after being referred by their companies as part of the company leadership development program. One such company was Wells Fargo Bank.


Lance Miller at Toastmasters Leadership Institute

Notably, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Disney, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Sony, and Toyota all have corporate clubs.

Locally, clubs are sponsored or hosted by Caltrans, Edison, Schneider Electronics, and the Chamber of Commerce.

Clubs are made up of people who aspire to be professional speakers and leaders, but also of ordinary folks who enjoy friendships, challenges, and the opportunity to learn together. Students, teachers, sales professionals, entrepreneurs, doctors, plumbers, engineers, teachers, lawyers, accountants, retired people, and folks from every walk of life and level of skill are welcomed in Toastmasters.

Ralph Smedley. A YMCA director in California started the first official Toastmaster club in October of 1924. According to Toastmasters International, “Smedley saw a need for the men in the community to learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees, and he wanted to help them.

Smedley decided to organize a club where they could learn these skills in a social environment, and the men responded well to the concept.”

Unofficially, the first Toastmasters meeting was held on March 24, 1905.

Members took turns leading and speaking at each meeting. The same happens today.

In fact, Division G (Fresno, Kings, and Tulare counties) Governor, Jose Salazar, will tell you that his theme for the year is “Getting Back to the Basics of Toastmasters.”

The basics are that every member of Toastmasters is developing his or her communication and leadership skills each week. Every week, one to three members will give a prepared 5-7 minute speech based upon criteria in an educational manual designed to help that person hone a specific skill. That speech will be evaluated to be supportive and encourage growth and even the evaluation will be evaluated.

“Table Topics” of 1-2 minutes give others a chance to speak on topics of the day in an impromptu manner.

Everything is timed and everything is evaluated.

Everything is fun!

There are weekly joke masters who bring a touch of humor. There are formalities such as a pledge to the flag and an inspirational thought or invocation. There is a welcome and there is a specific form of greeting when beginning a speech as members acknowledge the people present, “fellow Toastmasters and most honored guests.”

At the Federal club that meets at 7:30 on Friday mornings there is usually coffee and tea. At other clubs, there is no food, but lots of friendliness. Still others meet over meals in local restaurants or at lunch time in businesses where everyone brings their own meal.

It all depends upon the nature of the particular club, but the warm welcome is always served.

It does not matter whether someone is a seasoned speaker or a nervous novice coming with an intense fear of speaking. The group is always supportive and the materials clearly prescribe and chart progress for any person wishing to peruse them.

There is abundant training, recognition, and even completion.

Clubs can be found in businesses, churches, community organizations, campuses, even prisons.

Twice a year, there are area, division, district, and national competitions in these categories:

Tall Tales
International (usually motivational or inspirational)

The winners at each level of the International category can progress to an international competition and the winner becomes the “World Champion of Public Speaking.”


Contest Participants

Not all Toastmasters compete, but all participate in club activities. The next contest is March 11 in Visalia, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For $8, there will be plenty of snacks, good speeches, and a taste of Toastmasters. Registration starts at 8 a.m.. All are welcome. More information is on the Social Networking for Toastmasters site.

There is recognition for achievement and all the support needed to continue to meet new goals.

Many clubs, such as Federal, and Central Valley, have Facebook pages. Toastmasters International is present on Facebook.

Toastmasters is like a family, with members of various clubs getting to know each other, support each other, and stand together is times of personal life challenges. Toastmasters cheer each other on in their organizational progress, but also in their career goals and personal lives.

If you live in the Fresno area, or almost anywhere in the world, and you want to make friends who support and encourage, there are no excuses. Whatever your walk of life, ethnicity, politics, religion, or profession, you will be welcomed and accepted at a Toastmasters club.


Tom with Area Contest Winners

It is free to visit as often as you like. Members pay dues twice a year of about $42-$50 and pay for their educational materials.

For all the information you could ever want or to find the nearest club to you, visit the Toastmasters International website.

Welcome, fellow Toastmasters and most honored guests.

Local Clubs and Meeting Times


Phoenix Toastmasters
Phone: (559) 325-7531 Meeting Times: Monday 6:30 am – 7:30 am
Location: Denny’s Restaurant (Clovis)
(at Shaw and Willow in Clovis)
710 W Shaw Ave Fresno, CA 93704-2301 United States

Sierra Toastmasters
Meeting Times: Monday 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Location: Kaiser Permanente Medical Center – Fresno, CA
Wawona Conference Room – 3rd Floor
7300 North Fresno Street Fresno, CA 93720-2941 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties


Clovis Speechmasters
Tuesday 12:00 pm
Location: Seven Bar and Grill
25 Shaw Ave (NEC Shaw and Minnewawa) Clovis, CA 93612 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties.

Central Valley Toastmasters
Phone: 559-376-2068 Meeting Times: TUESDAY 7:15 pm, 8:30 pm
Third Floor, Wawona Room
7300 North Fresno Street Fresno, CA 93720 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties


Phone: (559) 243-3499 Meeting Times: Wednesday 11:50 am
Location: Department of Transportation Caltrans/Manchester Mall
2015 E Shields Ave Ste 100 Fresno, CA 93726-5428 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties.

Fresno City Toastmasters
Phone: 559-621-6864 Meeting Times: Wed. 12:00 pm
Location: FIRE Department HEADQUARTERS
We meet in various rooms***ask receptionist for direction
911 H STREET Fresno, CA 93721-3620 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties.

TLC Club
Phone: (559) 275-4996 Meeting Times: Wednesday 7:00 pm
Location: Kaiser Hospital, 3rd floor Sierra Rooms
7300 N Fresno St Fresno, CA 93720-2941 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties.


Transportation Toastmasters
Phone: 559-488-4112 Meeting Times: Thursday 11:50 am
Location: Caltrans
1352 W Olive Ave Fresno, CA 93728-2818 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties.

Speech Conductors Toastmasters
Come join us as we grow and learn together in knowledge and skills.
We meet at the Southern California Edison facility located at 2425 S Blackstone Ave, Tulare
Every Thursday from 12:00 Noon to 1 pm


Federal Toastmasters
Phone: (559) 647-2203 Meeting Times: Friday 7:30 am
Location: 4141 Ministries – The Fellowship of Joy
4141 N Fresno St Fresno, CA 93726-4005 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties.

Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Phone: 559-696-0421 Meeting Times: Friday 1st & 3rd of Month 12:00 pm
Location: Wedgewood Wedding & Banquet Center Conference Room
4584 W. Jacquelyn Ave Fresno, CA 93722 United States
Membership Restriction: None; the club is open to all interested parties.

Stellar Toastmasters
Check online.

Employee and Closed Clubs

Water Spouts
Phone: 559-230-3358 Meeting Times: Tuesday 12:00 pm
Location: Department of Water Resources Building
3374 E Shields Ave Rm A-5 Fresno, CA 93726-6911 United States
Membership Restriction: Please contact the club; eligibility criteria exist.

Atomic Toastmasters – Employees only – Schneider Electronics
Phone: 559-388-6484 Meeting Times: Tuesday 12:00 pm
Location: Pelco – Bldg 7 (Meeting location can vary, please check with receptionist B7)
3500 Pelco Way Clovis, CA 93612-5620 United States
Membership Restriction: Please contact the club; eligibility criteria exist.

Visalia Toastmasters
Tuesdays, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Location: Brandman University
649 So. County Center Drive
Visalia, CA 93277

Orangebelt Toastmasters
Every Monday (except holidays) at 6:00 pm
887 West Olive Avenue
Porterville, CA 93257

You can find more of Tom’s Strolling The Town column here. Keep up with Tom’s writing and “strolling” by following him on Twitter @tomsims

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. His congregation, “The Fellowship of Joy,” is part of a larger collaborative called “4141 Ministries,” of which he is Executive Director & he is an active Toastmaster. You can also find him on Facebook.



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