The Toastmaster is the meeting’s director and host. You are the person that pulls everything together and in terms of responsibility. If it needs doing, you need to do it or make sure someone else will. If you are unsure of something or need help, call on the president to assist you. The president will generally be in touch with you a week prior to the meeting to offer help but don’t be shy about asking before that if needed.
At least a week before the meeting go online to see which roles have been filled and which are open. Send an email to the membership reminding them of the open roles and solicit people to fill the slots. The Friday before the meeting follow up again with a similar note and then again on Tuesday if necessary.
You will need to have the prepared speakers spots filled no later than the Friday before the meeting as most people can’t prepare a speech in a couple of days. If you still have speakers spots open you should contact people directly preferably those who have not spoken in a while.
Begin preparing for your role several days in advance. Request an introduction from each of the prepared speakers and give them a deadline of Tuesday evening. They will write it but remind them to include the manual and speech number, a few sentences about their speech, the speech title and a few words about themselves. Confirm their speaking time; the standard is 5-7 minutes but advanced speeches will often require more time. As toastmaster, you will have a few minutes to give opening remarks. Think about what you would like to say and prepare that in advance.
The day before the meeting, complete the agenda and email a copy to the president for review. Once finalized, email it to the entire membership on the morning of the meeting and print 24 copies and bring them to the meeting.
You can get agenda templates from the Resources page. It is helpful to write several time milestones on the agenda for your reference. For example, prepared speeches should be complete at 7:25 pm, Table Topics by 7:55 pm etc. — the exact times will vary by meeting. It is important to watch and use these milestones to keep the meeting on track. If you fall behind, take corrective action to get back on track. What you don’t want to do is to allow the earlier part of the meeting to run long and then try to jam the evaluations into a few minutes at the end. The 10 minute break is sacred so don’t take time away from that. If necessary, you can trim Table Topics, and limit speaking time of the evaluators, reports and General Evaluator as a last resort.
Day of the meeting
On meeting day, show up early. You’ll need time to make sure everything is set for a successful meeting and to fill in any empty roles listed on the agenda. The club president will introduce you at which point you will have 3-4 minutes for an opening monologue on a subject of your choosing.
As the Toastmaster, you’ll introduce each speaker. Remember to always remain at the podium until the next speaker has arrived. Shake their hand before leaving. Upon completion of their speech walk to the podium shake their hand and say a few quick words about the speech. Anticipate the end of their speech and move toward the front of the room so you don’t leave them standing there at the podium. Remember that after each prepared speech you need to give club members about 1-2 minutes to fill out evaluation sheets before proceeding to the next speaker.
After the prepared speakers have finished, you announce a 10 minute break. Following the break you call the meeting to order and introduce the Table Topics master. Keep an eye on the time allotted for Table Topics and indicate to the TTM how much time they have remaining as they near the end. Typically it is easiest to indicate that they have time for one last question. The Table Topics master will hand the meeting back to you at which time you introduce the general evaluator who will now take over the meeting.
The general evaluator will return the meeting to you at which point you will have 1-2 minutes to deliver closing remarks about the meeting. During this speech you can thank all of the speakers and comment about any observations. Finally return control to the club president.
As the General Evaluator you are responsible for facilitating the evaluation portion of the meeting. During this time four main areas are covered.
First, you will briefly explain your role and the purpose of the General Evaluator. One main reason for this is to help any guests and newer members understand the purpose and benefits.
Second, you will bring up and briefly introduce the evaluation team one by one which includes the Speech Evaluators, Grammarian and Timer. Prior to the General Evaluation portion of the meeting remind your evaluation team to briefly explain their role for the benefits of any guests.
Third, you will evaluate the evaluators. After each evaluator has provided feedback to their assigned prepared speaker you will then briefly, in about 20–30 seconds, provide feedback on the delivery of the evaluator. Comment on what the evaluator did well, consider mentioning the evaluation method used, and offer suggestions for improvement. Please refrain from making any suggestions to the assigned prepared speaker as an evaluator has already been assigned for that purpose. Remember to address the evaluator in the 3rd person which includes everybody in the room.
Finally, you will provide a general evaluation of the overall meeting. Similar to a speech evaluation, point out what went well during the meeting and also provide feedback on areas that could use improvement as to increase awareness. A few examples for improvement include: Did anyone leaving the lectern empty? Did anyone end a speech with a thank you as opposed to Mr./Madam Toastmaster? Is there any missing information on the agenda such as speech information?
A key aspect of Toastmasters is evaluation and Table Topics is frequently under-evaluated. Include a review of Table Topics in your evaluation. This should include the clarity with which the questions were posed, the quality of the questions and how long people spoke. A Table Topics session where everyone speaks for 2 minutes is more successful than one where everyone speaks for 30 seconds.
When you conclude, turn the meeting over back to the Toastmaster.
As grammarian your role is helping members improve their grammar and word usage. Being the grammarian also provides an exercise in expanding listening skills. You have several responsibilities:
- introduce a “word of the day” at the beginning of the meeting
- track usage of grammar throughout the meeting
- deliver a report during the evaluation section of the meeting on all speakers’ language usage
Prior to the meeting, choose the “word of the day”. It should be a word that will help members increase their vocabulary and can be incorporated into a speech. Early in the meeting, you will be introduced. Announce the word of the day, state its part of speech, definition and use it in a sentence. Remind those speaking during any part of the meeting to use the word.
During the meeting, listen closely to each speaker. This includes the president’s opening remarks, toastmaster’s opening remarks, tips, prepared speeches, Table Topics Master and evaluators. Take note of any awkward use or misuse of the language including improper grammar, misused words etc., as well as any word usage or phraseology you liked. Pay particular attention to filler words (ahs, ums, you knows etc), double clutches and other verbal errors.
In the evaluation section of the meeting, you will deliver the Grammarian’s report. Before you do, briefly explain the role and duties of the grammarian for the benefit of the guests. Afterward, deliver the grammarian’s report starting with the first person listed on the agenda. Try to offer the correct usage in every instance of misused words or incorrect pronunciation. You should report who used the word of the day and how many fillers each speaker used.
The role of the timer is to ensure that meetings stay on time from start until finish. The timer is responsible for monitoring and recording the time used by each speaker in all segments of the meeting. You will see times listed on the agenda — use them as your guidelines for how long each speaker should be talking. In addition to recording the time used by each speaker, you also assist them in keeping on track via use of the green, yellow and red timing paddles.
During the meeting you can simply record each participant’s time next to their name on the agenda, timer’s sheet or whatever is most convenient for you. In the evaluation section of the meeting, you will be called upon to deliver the timer’s report. Simply follow the agenda and give each speaker’s name and the time used. For those that ran over, you can also state their allotted time.
Using the timing paddles:
Every role during the meeting has a minimum and maximum time for each speaker to follow. Display the green signal at the minimum time listed on the agenda, display the yellow signal at the mid point, and the red signal at the maximum time. It is not necessary to continuously hold the paddle up — just hold it up until you are reasonably sure that the speaker will have seen it. NOTE: If a speaker goes over their allotted time by more than one minute, hold the paddle over your head.
5-7 Minute Speech:
Green: Show at 5 minutes
Yellow: Show at 6 minutes
Red: Show at 7 minutes
10-12 Minute Speech:
Green: Show at 10 minutes
Yellow: Show at 11 minutes
Red: Show at 12 minutes
Table Topics – each speaker 1-2 Minutes:
Green: Show at 1 minutes
Yellow: Show at 1 minutes 30 seconds
Red: Show at 2 minutes
Feedback is a critical aspect of becoming a better speaker. As you become more experienced you will be called upon to provide feedback to speakers as an evaluator. Preparing and presenting evaluations is an opportunity for you to practice your listening, critical thinking, feedback and motivational skills.
Before the meeting, talk with the speaker you’ve been assigned to evaluate and understand which manual project they will present. Review the project goals and what the speaker hopes to achieve. It is always a good idea to ask if there is anything in particular they want you to look for. For example, someone may be focusing on improving their hand gestures so would ask you to take special note of that.
Review the project objectives as well as the evaluation guide in the manual. Remember, the purpose of evaluation is to help people develop their speaking or leadership skills. By actively listening, providing feedback and offering suggestions for improvement, you motivate members to improve.
When you arrive at the meeting, retrieve the manual from the speaker — you will use it as a guide to help your evaluation. Record your impressions in the manual, along with your answers to the evaluation questions. Many evaluators take the manual with them to the podium to use as notes. Tell the audience what the objective of the speech was and then articulate how the speaker met those objectives. Be as objective as possible. A good rule of thumb is to start the evaluation with all the things that worked well, next discuss areas for improvement and conclude with a summary that focuses on the positive and praises the speaker. Remember that good evaluations encourage members while overly critical evaluations may discourage members who tried their best. Always provide specific methods for improving and present them in a positive manner. Don’t try to cover too much in your talk; three to five points is plenty.
After the meeting, return the manual to the speaker.
Table Topics Master
The fundamental job of the Table Topics master is to enable people to get up and speak in front of the room on an impromptu basis. Your job is to make it easy and do everything you can to give people the opportunity to successfully speak for 1 – 2 minutes.
Keep it simple by posing questions in a simple, straightforward manner. Some people feel the need to be so creative that it complicates the session. This can create confusing or embarrassing situations which does nothing to develop our skills. Pose the question in a direct manner — there are plenty of other areas in which to be creative.
The quality of the question we ask determines the quality of the answer we get. Think less about how clever a question can be and more about what kind of answer it will allow people to give. Ask high quality questions that give people room to run. Remember the purpose is to get people up to speak for 1 – 2 minutes. A poor or narrow question inhibits this.
Upon coming into the room Table Topics master should take note of members on the agenda versus who is in the meeting room. Members without a role should be called upon first followed by those with minor roles. Writing down who will be called and which questions they will be asked removes pressure once you are up there and keeps the session organized. To the extent possible, we should not ask for volunteers and instead call on members. When asking for volunteers, skilled speakers tend to step up meaning less experienced people stay less experienced.
If we follow these guidelines three benefits will accrue to the club:
- We will become better impromptu speakers
- It will be easier to participate and to succeed
- Table Topics will be much more fun and relaxed