In this section you will find useful information on how to prepare for and perform the roles at our meetings:
More than any other functionary, the Toastmaster is the ‘glue’ that holds the meeting together. You can’t run a good meeting without that cohesion! The Toastmaster introduces all of the speakers and other functionaries on the programme.
To act as host for the evening you need to prepare. The meeting is enriched if the Toastmaster contacts the various participants beforehand to prepare interesting and informative introductions. The secondary objective of contacting participants is to ensure that they have remembered that they are on the programme and are available on the night.
When you arrive at the meeting, take charge, check that all participants are there and liaise with the EVP/President on any changes.
As Toastmaster you should make sure that you are working from the final version of the programme. After all you want to avoid the common mistake of announcing people who are not present.
Remember your role as Toastmaster is to keep the energy levels of the meeting up. Introduce the speakers and functionaries with gusto and keep the meeting moving. With the Timekeeper’s help you should end on time.
In a programme which often includes contributions from 20-30 people, control of timing is extremely important. The Timekeeper’s function is to provide timing signals to most of the participants and to report specifically on the timing performance of topics speakers, prepared speakers and evaluators.
Using the LATEST published programme as a checklist, review the activities to be timed. All timings are printed down the right hand column in the form: 3/4/5 (which means Green light at 3/Amber at 4/Red at 5 minutes).
At the meeting:
Arrive a few minutes early and familiarise yourself with the operation of the lights and the stopwatch. Liaise with the Sergeant-at-Arms if you need any help.
Start operation of the timing lights when the President opens the meeting and for every subsequent function where timings are indicated.
After your introduction by the Toastmaster make the most of your speaking opportunity. Briefly explain why we keep time in our meetings, explain the role of the Timekeeper and include a demonstration of the lights. This is particularly important for visitors and new members to understand.
Keep a running record of meeting progress and a specific record of the times for each prepared speaker, evaluator and table topics speaker.
At most meetings you will be called upon to give 3 time reports. The first for the prepared speakers. The second for the table topics speaker and the third for the evaluators, including the Grammarian.
When called upon by the Toastmaster report the times for the table topics speakers. Mention the subject of the topic very briefly. For Example: ‘ane Dunn spoke on Summer Holidays for 1 minute 25 seconds.’ This is helpful if there has been a long list of speakers, especially if the audience will be voting for ‘best topic’.
Even the timekeeping role is a valuable speaking opportunity – bring some originality to it.
The Grammarian has three duties which are , in order of priority:
1) to report on interesting, unusual or effective uses of language and also on any grammatical errors or ‘inappropriate’ use such as bad language.
2) to set a ‘word of the day’ and report on it’s use . Choose a word that you would like to hear used more frequently. Descriptive words such as adjectives work well. Avoid obscure words or ones that are difficult to pronounce.
3) to report on hesitations and filler words (Um’s and Ah’s, ‘you knows’ etc) where they distract from the speaker’s message.
At The Meeting:
After your introduction by the Toastmaster, explain the role of the Grammarian and announce the ‘Word of the Day’ giving it’s meaning and some examples of it’s use. To assist the audience, write the ‘Word of the day’ on 3 pieces of paper which can be displayed around the room.
Listen carefully to all of the speakers and report your findings when called upon by the Toastmaster towards the end of the meeting.
Notes and Tips:
Although Grammarian is often seen as a minor role, it is a serious speaking opportunity which can make an important contribution to the meeting.
Do not attempt to record all of the Um’s and Ah’s as this would take intense concentration and is rather less important than picking up effective uses of language.
Topics is a ‘fun’ section of a Toastmasters meeting where we all get to practice the art of impromptu speaking.
The Topics Master should compile a list of willing topics speakers before the meeting and during the break. Participants should be asked rather than cajoled or pressured. Our attendances make it possible to support a topics session of 8-12 willing volunteers.
The success of the topics session also depends on the choice of subject and how the questions are phrased. A good overall performance is achieved when the questions allows the speaker freedom to go in their own direction with the subject. The key is to ask open questions that allow room for scope.
If the topics has theme, this allows the less-experienced speakers some preparation time.
Of course, some people will always prefer to set ‘challenging’ topics but these will inevitably produce an excellent performance from a few speakers while the rest flounder. As you become familiar with the other club members you will know who to give the more challenging questions to.
The most difficult functionary role is undoubtedly that of the General Evaluator who needs to pay close attention to the meeting while simultaneously writing notes and organising a structured 10 minute speech.
The General Evaluator has two main tasks. 1) to evaluate the President, Timekeeper, Speech Evaluators, Topics Master, Topics Evaluator and Grammarian; 2) to give feedback to the club on how the meeting went overall and any specific comments relating to the running of the club that s/he has noticed.
It is not really practical to comment on every aspect of the meeting in a general evaluation. An effective strategy, therefore, is to concentrate on one or two aspects of the meeting such as structure, timing, audience reaction, adherence to meeting guidelines, quality of evaluations or handling of guests.
Hopefully, this will give a fresh angle to each general evaluation rather than a simple recitation of what happened.
Also, General Evaluators should not be afraid to ‘tell it like it is’. They should be supportive, commend the club for what is done well and highlight areas for improvement clearly.
General evaluations are normally undertaken by experienced Toastmasters who can set a good example of both timekeeping and structure.