Date: October 01, 2005 12:21AM
I almost laughed with relief to read the other two posters! Yes, it's a totally non-cultish, non-MLM group. Solely for business networking. There are lots of great business networking groups which are not about trying to sell some get-rich quick scheme. You can usually tell the ones that are legitimate because they charge a fee, usually between $10-60, per meeting or lecture. That may cover everything from the speaker's fee to the meeting space, or even a lunch or dinner.
I used to run a networking group in Southern California with some friends. One of my partners did Toastmasters several years ago, and she said she was always grateful for the help it gave her with her public speaking skills. It was certainly not a cult - she had no problem leaving the group once she felt more comfortable speaking, however, she did make some friends and acquaintances!
As far as I know it is very simple and straightforward. People meet about an hour every week, and each week someone gives a speech on a topic of their choosing. Some people decide to join a group that is part of a common employer or industry - such as graduate students practicing their dissertation (and being prepared to answer questions), or people who work for Disney, etc.
I suppose it would be possible for people in some sort of coercive group to form their own Toastmasters chapter, but the idea is always to visit several groups before you join, and to focus on improving your speaking skills. No one is trying to sell you a golden calf.