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How to Start a Speech Club

Learn Public Speaking

This post combines several articles originally posted on our Gavel club website.  My sons started a local Gavel Club in order to learn public speaking – because public speaking skills improve with targeted practice in front of other people.

Public Speaking

Many people dread public speaking, yet the folks over at Forbes say that the skill can “boost your value by 50%.”  They probably got the number from billionaire Warren Buffet, who told the same thing to a group of Columbia University students in 2009, according to an Inc. article recently.  And the need is only increasing in today’s communication-driven technology-world.

The problem with learning public speaking for homeschoolers is that you need an audience. You might think you could just join the internationally renowned public speaking organization, Toastmasters International, but alas – they have a minimum age requirement of 18 years old. If this is your conundrum, look no further. A Gavel Club, a public speaking club affiliated with Toastmasters International, uses the same high-quality development manuals and is dedicated to the same principles of practicing public speaking, improving communication and building leadership skills.

Our Story

My sons and I started our gavel club for a public speaking requirement in high school.  What better way to learn the art of speechcraft than the Toastmaster’s International organization?  With a little research, we soon discovered that Fort Collins has a number of clubs.  So we picked one that met on a day that we were free and started visiting.

Typically, Toastmaster clubs like you to visit three times before you apply for membership. So we did!  We thoroughly enjoyed observing and even participating a bit.  The club we visited warmly welcomed us as new visitors, and its members were very experienced.  We took our applications home to fill out and then, to our dismay, found the small print where it said “Members must be 18 years or older to join.”  My son was only 15 at the time — not quite there yet!  No one noticed his age because he is tall.

Back to the drawing board!

After that slight setback, we quickly were referred to the Toastmaster’s pages that described a Gavel Club and how to start one.  Basically, a Gavel Club is a low-budget option for people who don’t have income, like people under the age of 18, or moms who homeschool. We don’t get all the bells and whistles of a full-fledged Toastmaster’s Club, but we do get access to the excellent development materials — a time-tested curriculum for developing accomplished public speakers.

We put out the word and found 14 “founding members” including both of my other sons.  Our group is still young — we all started at Speech 1: The Ice Breaker at the same time.  In the first year, some of our speakers reached Speech 7: Research Your Topic. We’re into our 4th year and looking forward to the future.

So that’s how we started our gavel club to learn public speaking.

If you want to start your own public speaking Gavel club

First, determine if you have enough interest. More than 10 is best. While a Gavel Club does not require a minimum number of members, it certainly helps if you have enough to fill the speaking roles in a meeting.  Twenty is a comfortable number.

Next, you can contact your local Toastmasters clubs and see if there are any gavel clubs in your area.  Or you can ask them if they would consider sponsoring a club.

After that, you can contact Toastmasters International directly at  They will get you the paperwork and forms you need to fill out.

At your first meeting, you’ll have to elect officers and decide on meeting times and locations as well as dues or fees if any. 

Then you’ll be off to start your foray into learning public speaking through your very own Gavel Club. If you need help figuring out how to give high school credit for a speech club, how to stay calm when homeschooling high school, or other aspects of assessment during high school, be sure to check out our suggestions. If you want to see what an actual speech looks like, read our article on Speechcraft. And if you want to see how a book inspired and inspirational speech, read this article. Finally, for a look at a back-to-school themed mini-speech, read our post on Back to Homeschool.

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