Can artificial intelligence strengthen human connections by improving public speaking?
That’s the ambition of a new partnership between Toastmasters International and Yoodli. Toastmasters this week rolled out the Seattle startup’s AI-powered communication coach as a free benefit for its more than 280,000 members.
Toastmasters members will have access to a customized version of Yoodli, based on Toastmasters’ grading criteria, which differ from those used in the public version of the Yoodli technology.
They will be able to use Yoodli to practice their speeches in front of a computer or device, letting them see analytics on filler words, body language, the pacing of their speech, eye contact, and other aspects of their presentations. The technology can also be incorporated into Toastmasters club meetings.
“I’ve always been a believer that artificial intelligence can be used to augment the human experience, but everything stems from the human-to-human interaction,” said Yoodli co-founder Varun Puri. “Whether it’s a Toastmasters meeting that’s happening virtually or in-person … Yoodli can be there as an added benefit for these members.”
In addition to AI-driven analytics, the Yoodli technology provides a way for other Toastmasters members and leaders give quick feedback on speeches, connected to specific moments in the video of a member’s speech.
In a video message this week, Matt Kinsey, Toastmasters’ 2022-23 International president, recommended that Toastmasters members use Yoodli to practice and polish their speeches before meetings.
“You may notice that the platform’s insights sometimes differ from feedback offered by your in-club evaluator,” Kinsey said. “This AI tool can provide valuable analytics about your speech, but it cannot evaluate the overall effectiveness of your delivery. For example, AI can tell you that you repeated a word frequently throughout your speech, but your evaluator and club members will tell you if that repetition enhanced or detracted from your message.”
Toastmasters members will also have access to collaboration tools and impromptu speaking games through Yoodli.
The partnership was announced in September, in advance of the rollout this week. Financial terms were not disclosed.
It’s a high-profile partnership for Yoodli, which was founded in 2021 at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) incubator in Seattle by Puri, a former project manager with X Development, the R&D organization of Google parent Alphabet; and entrepreneur Esha Joshi.
Yoodli has raised more than $7 million from Madrona Venture Group, Cercano Capital, AI2, and others.