In October 1924, a group of men assembled by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, U.S.A., forming a club to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members.
The group took the name of Toastmasters. Soon men in other communities and states asked for permission and help to start their own Toastmasters clubs. By 1930, a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the many clubs and to provide a standard program. When a speaking club in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, expressed interest in forming a Toastmasters club, the group became known as Toastmasters International.
For many years the Home Office of Toastmasters International was based in a series of rented office spaces. In 1962, the Toastmasters International staff moved to its first World Headquarters building in Santa Ana, California, not far from where the first club began. By the late 1980s, however, this building could no longer adequately house the increased staff needed to provide services to the growing number of Toastmasters. In 1990 World Headquarters relocated to a new building in Rancho Santa Margarita, approximately 20 miles south of Santa Ana, designed to accommodate Toastmasters International’s expected growth well into the 21st century.
Toastmasters International’s success and growth is due in large part to the continued development of its educational programs. The organisation has come a long way since the first speech manual, Basic Training, was developed. The current manual, now called the Communication and Leadership Program, was most recently updated in 2003.