Toastmasters: 20 isn’t the goal


Sitting at the Toastmasters International Convention, I watched as a friend of mine went to the stage to receive an award on behalf of her district.  They were being recognized for having the most clubs with 20 or more members, over 80% in their case. I was looking at the statistics and there are quite a few districts, like ours in Kansas and Western Missouri, that have closer to 50% of their clubs with 20 or more members.

What’s the difference? I think that it is a decision that the club makes. Either A, you choose to treat 20 as a finish line (i.e. “we just need to get to 20 in June to make distinguished”), or B, you treat 20 as a minimum for having a successful club all of the time.

What are the pros and cons? Well, in option A you trade doing less work marketing for doing more work running club meetings and other functions. You may have an easier time getting speaking slots, but fewer folks are getting experience and the pool of great evaluators is small. If a few people miss a meeting, your speaking to a small audience and probably doing double (or triple) duty.

In option B, you do more work publicizing and marketing the club, and also a little more work scheduling. More members means more speakers, more evaluators, and more people having fun. It’s surprising how contagious that can be.

So how do you get from A –> B? There’s a simple (but not easy) process:

1. Decide to do it – it seems to take about four dedicated members to get the group on board.
2. Make a plan – how will you market your club? Website, Company paper, Library bulletin board, etc.)
3. Set the example – give manual speeches and invite guests
4. Hold your members accountable – don’t be harsh, but ask how they are approaching others, and how they are doing on their goals
5. Have fun!

Getting to 20 isn’t the finish line. Treat it like your minimum and you’ll see just how successful and FUN your club can really be!


  1. The club I’m a part of at the moment seems to feel 20 is TOO many – they are hoping to keep it to about 12, so its comfortable and speaking opportunities are plentiful.

    It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. With luck, they’ll get to 20 whether they like it or not.

    1. Rich, I’ve heard that before as well. The first thing I’ve noticed (usually) is that they haven’t tried it. Okay, maybe one or two members in the club have. In fact, it’s that one or two that are convincing the others that there 9-13 number is gold.

      It does seem like clubs with 20-25 members are at least as happy as the smaller clubs think they are. 🙂

      I hope you have success working with them!

      1. I would say it depends on the members. An advanced club with 12 COMMITTED members who regularly and fully participate may be OK, but that seems rare to me. More often, there’s some range of committed to not-so-committed, and that’s where the need for 20 (or more) arises.

  2. Rich
    It sounds like the club you are referring to doesn’t want to be a Toastmasters club but a more social club. Toastmasters mission is simple and states we as clubs are meant to enhance the performance of members and extend the network of clubs. by limiting membership they are limiting the growth their members could potentially reach. They are also denying others who want to improve their skills the opportunity to do so.

    I don’t believe we learn if we stay within our comfort zone- push the boundaries and be amazed how strong they’ll become not only as speakers but also as leaders helping others learn and gain skills they didn’t know they were capable of.
    I’m a stickler for rules and basically the program says 20 is the BARE minimum you need to start a club – if you aren’t at that minimum then it will be more difficult to attract new members when the club starts losing people through natural churn. In my experience it is harder to save a club once it gets below 15. 20 is just the beginning!


  3. They aren’t ‘limiting’ as much as not ‘pushing growth’. This club nearly died in June, and went from 3 then to 8 now. They enjoy the TM program and manuals, but aren’t terribly interested in the organization itself beyond the club.

    As they grow, hopefully some members will come in that might want a bit more out of the experience, and I’ll be there to let them know what goes on outside of the room we meet in every week.

    Clubs with 20 plus members are few and far between here in the western mountain states – the culture and population base in Colorado, Utah, and Eastern Washington State, where I’ve been a TM for the last 11 years, is simply too laid back. We have some power clubs, but a healthy club out here is lucky to have 20 paid members – with attendance of 15 seeming large.

    I have noticed Colorado is a bit better – but Denver is a much bigger city than Salt Lake or Spokane, as well.

  4. Not pushing growth in itself says ‘limiting’ to me. Enthusiasm and passion is all very contagious. So with your help you can help light the fire to inspire them to share what they are learning with others who are as shy or retiring as they were before they found Toastmasters. ;o)

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