Meeting roles

Our club revolves around weekly meetings where people are assigned one of several roles to fulfil.  This article outlines each of these roles, breaking down the responsibilities before, after and during the meeting.

Toastmaster

The main duty of the Toastmaster is to act as the host and make introductions

  • Participants should be introduced in a way that encourages the audience to listen to them. The Toastmaster creates an atmosphere of interest, expectation, and receptivity.
  • Usually this task will not be assigned to you until you are familiar with the Club and its procedures.

Before the meeting

  • Check with the Vice President Education to find out if a special theme has been set for the meeting and if there are any programme changes.
  • Create the agenda. Bear in mind there may be last minute chages.
  • Contact all Speakers in advance to remind them that they are speaking. Ask for their speech title, manual project number, purpose to be achieved, time requested and something interesting which you can use when introducing them (job, family, hobbies, education, why this topic for this audience etc.).
  • Prepare introductions for each Speaker. A proper introduction can add to the success of the Speaker’s presentation.
  • Prepare remarks which can be used to bridge the gaps between programme segments. You may never use them, but you should be prepared to avoid possibly awkward periods of silence.
  • Remember that performing as Toastmaster is one of the most valuable experiences in your Club work. The assignment requires careful preparation in order to have a smoothly-run meeting.

At the meeting

  • Arrive early in order to finish any last-minute details.
  • Check with the speakers for any last-minute changes.
  • Sit near the front of the room for quick and easy access to the lectern.

During the meeting

  • Preside with sincerity, energy and decisiveness. Take your audience on a pleasant journey and make them feel that all is going well.
  • Be familiar the Agenda carefully so that you do not miss any
  • Always lead the applause before and after each presenter.
  • After your introduction of another presenter, remain standing near the lectern until you have shaken hands – signifying your hand over of control of the meeting – then be seated.
  • When another presenter has finished, shake hands again to signify that control of the meeting is returning to you.

General Evaluator

The General Evaluator is an evaluator of everything that takes place throughout the meeting.

Before the meeting

  • Check with the Toastmaster of the meeting to find out how the programme will be conducted and if there are any planned deviations from the usual meeting format.

During the meeting

  • Take notes on everything that happens or, in your view, should happen. For example, were there unnecessary distractions that could have been avoided? Create a checklist from which you can follow the meeting. Did the meeting and each segment of it, begin and end on time?
  • You would not normally evaluate the Prepared Speakers or Tables Topics Speakers, as they have already been evaluated.
  • Give your General Evaluation of the meeting, using the notes you took as suggested above. Comment on the quality of evaluations. Were they positive, upbeat, helpful? Did they point the way to improvement?
  • Try to think of something original to say!

In some clubs the General Evaluator is responsible for the Evaluation team, which may consist of the Speech Evaluators and Table Topics Evaluators. This involves the following additional duties:

  • Before the meeting starts, greet all Evaluators who are present. If an Evaluator is missing, consult with the Vice President Education and arrange for a substitute.
  • Brief the Evaluators that evaluation is a positive, helping act. Their goal must be to help fellow Toastmasters develop their skills. Emphasize that evaluations should enhance or at least preserve the self-esteem of the speaker.
  • Ensure the individual Speech Evaluators have the Speaker’s manual and understand the project objectives and how to evaluate them. Suggest they talk to their Speakers to discover any special evaluation requirements.
  • Optional – During the meeting, before the first Evaluation, deliver a brief but thorough talk on the purpose, techniques, and benefits of evaluation – particularly for the benefit of any guests. Evaluation is a positive experience designed to help people overcome weak habits and add power to good ones.

Sergeant at Arms

Outside the meetings

  • Ensure the meeting location has been booked
  • Maintain Club equipment in working order and check after every meeting to ensure adequate supplies are available

At the meeting

  • Arrange the room at least ten minutes before the meeting begins
  • Make sure the lectern is in place, the lights are set up, the banner is displayed, seats are arranged properly with comments slips and any voting slips on them
  • Make sure name badges are available
  • Greet members and guests and arrange for guests to sit with members (optional)
  • Ensure the meeting starts on time

Timer

 

  • The Timer is responsible for timing items in the meeting, and signalling at appropriate points.
  • One of the skills in speech training is expressing oneself within a specific time. The Timekeeper helps those at the meeting practise this.

Prior to the meeting

  • Study the Agenda and raise any queries with the Toastmaster of the meeting. In particular, note the times of the prepared speeches.
  • Prepare an explanation of your role. Make it interesting – for example, google ‘time’ for a fascinating fact.

On arrival at the meeting

  • Get timing equipment from the Sergeant at Arms. Ensure you understand how to operate the stopwatch and signal device, and test that they work.
  • Sit where the signal device can be seen easily by those at the lectern.

During the meeting

  • Throughout the meeting, signal each programme participant as required.
  • Record each participant’s name and time used.
  • When called to report by the Toastmaster, stand at the lecturn and announce the participant’s name and the time taken.
  • When reporting on the time of each Table Topic, remind the audience in a few words of the subject.

After the meeting

  • Return the stopwatch and timing signal device to the Sergeant at Arms.

Grammarian & Ah counter

Ah Counter

  • The main duty of the Ah Counter is to note words and sounds used as a ‘crutch’ or pause filler by anyone who speaks during the meeting.
  • Words may be in appropriate interjections such as “and’, ‘but’, ‘so’, ‘well’, or ‘you know.’ Sounds may be ‘ah’, ‘er’, or ‘um.’ You should also note when a speaker repeats a word or phrase, such as ‘I’, ’I’ or ‘this means’, ‘this means,’ as well as restarts (when someone stops a sentence before completion and then restarts with a new thought).

Before the meeting

  • Prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the Ah Counter for the benefit of guests.

Upon arrival at the meeting

  • Work with the Ah Counter’s Log you’ve printed previously or you may also obtain a copy from the Sergeant-at-Arms when you arrive.

During the meeting

  • When introduced by the Toastmaster or General Evaluator, explain the role of the Ah Counter.
  • Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone and keep track of all inappropriate filler sounds or words used by anyone who speaks during the meeting, including repeats and restarts. Be sure to write down the name of each person who speaks so you can give an accurate report of non-offenders.
  • Tally the counts for each speaker and the group as a whole.
  • Give a report when called upon by the General Evaluator, including the total count for the meeting and who did particularly well (you may also wish to mention any fillers that were used particularly heavily).

Grammarian

Being Grammarian is an exercise in improving your listening skills.

  • You have three basic responsibilities:
    • to comment on the positive and negative uses of English during the meeting;
    • to introduce a new word and explain the correct use of it;
    • to count the use of ‘crutches’ such as ‘um’ and ‘err’. (Sometimes this role is performed by a separate Ah Counter.)
  • All of these are designed to help your fellow members improve their use of language.
  • Select a ‘Word of the Day’. It should be a word that will help members increase their vocabulary and one that can be incorporated easily into everyday conversation, but is different from the way people usually express themselves. Adjectives and adverbs are more adaptable than nouns or verbs, but feel free to select your own special word. If you know the theme for the meeting, use this to help you select your word.
  • In letters large enough to be seen from the back of the room, print your word on a sheet of paper that can be displayed. You can also include its part of speech (adjective, adverb, noun, etc.) and a brief definition.
  • Prepare a few sentences to explain the meaning of the word and how it is used.
  • Prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the Grammarian for the benefit of the guests.

Grammarian’s introduction

  • Explain the role of the Grammarian.
  • Announce your ‘Word of the Day’, state its part of speech, define it, use it in a sentence and encourage members to use it.
  • Display your sheet of paper with the word somewhere prominent so that it can be seen throughout the meeting.

During the meeting

  • Listen to everyone’s word usage. Write down any particularly good uses of language and your reason for selection. Write down any awkward use or misuse of the language – for example: incomplete sentences, sentences that change direction in mid-stream, incorrect grammar etc. Note the speakers concerned.
  • Write down who used the ‘Word of the Day’ (or a derivative of it) and note those who used it correctly or incorrectly.
  • Count the number of times that each person speaking used ‘um’, ‘err’ or other crutches or pause fillers while speaking. Listen for words such as ‘and’, ‘well’, ‘but’, ‘so’ or ‘you know’. Make a note of which speaker use which particular fillers and how often.

Grammarian’s Report

  • Report on what you thought was good and bad language usage and your reasons for selection.
  • Offer the correct usage in every instance where there was a misuse instead of only explaining what was wrong.
  • Announce who used the ‘Word of the Day’ (or a derivative of it) correctly or incorrectly.
  • Report on crutch or filler words. (Unless this is done by a separate Ah Counter)

Table Topics Master

Table Topics are impromptu speeches. The purpose of the Table Topics section is to help members think on their feet and speak on a given subject for between one and two minutes. It also allows speaking opportunities for those who are not programmed for other roles on the Agenda.

Before the meeting

  • Draw up a list of Topics. Ideas can be found in The Toastmaster magazine, national papers or websites. Do not repeat the previous meeting’s Table Topics ideas or items.
  • Select topics that will inspire the speakers and encourage them to give their opinions. Phrase them in such a way that the speaker clearly will know what you want them to talk about.
  • Keep your comments short. Your job is to give others a chance to speak, not to give a series of mini-talks yourself.
  • Get a copy of the Agenda, to help you select members who are not carrying out any speaking role. Only if time permits at the end of the Topics session should you call on participants already on the programme.
  • Find out if there is a theme of the meeting and, if so, prepare Topics in line with that theme.

During the meeting

  • When introduced, briefly state the purpose of the Topics session.
  • Set the stage for your Topics programme. Keep your remarks brief but enthusiastic.
  • State the Topic then call on a member. Doing it this way round holds everyone’s attention as they all think of a response should they be called on to speak. It also adds to the value of the impromptu element by giving everyone an opportunity to improve his or her ‘better listening and thinking’ skills.
  • Call on speakers at random. Avoid going around the room in the order in which people are sitting. Give each participant a different Topic. Don’t ask two people the same thing unless you ask each specifically to give the ‘pro’ or ‘con’ side.
  • Watch the time you have available. Check the printed agenda for the total time allotted to Table Topics and adjust the number of Topics to end your segment on time. Even if your portion started late, try to end on time to avoid the total meeting running over time.

Speech evaluator

After every Prepared Speech and for each Table Topic the Speaker receives an Evaluation.

  • The Evaluation you present can make the difference between a worthwhile or a wasted speech for your Speaker. The purpose of Evaluation is to help the Speaker become less self-conscious and a better Speaker. This requires that you be fully aware of the Speaker’s skill level, habits and mannerisms, as well as his or her progress to date. If the Speaker uses a technique or some gesture that receives a good response from the audience, tell the Speaker so that they will be encouraged to use it again.
  • Record your impressions of the speech. Be as objective as possible and remember that good Evaluations may give new life to discouraged members and poor Evaluations may dishearten members who tried their best. Remember; always give the Speaker specific methods for improving for each recommendation. Begin and end your oral evaluation with encouragement or praise. Don’t try to cover too much in your talk – possibly one point on organisation, one on delivery and one on attainment of purpose with a statement about the greatest asset and a suggestion for future improvement. You can cover more points with the Speaker personally after the meeting.
  • Praise a successful speech and specifically tell in which ways it was successful. Don’t allow a Speaker to remain unaware of a valuable asset such as a smile, a sense of humour, or a good voice. On the other hand, don’t allow the Speaker to remain ignorant of a serious fault or mannerism. Give the Speaker the deserved praise and tactful suggestions in the manner you would like to receive them when you are the Speaker
  • In a Table Topics Evaluation you should be brief. This is not just because of time limitations, but because there is no point going into detail on aspects that the Speaker has had no time to think about. You should also bear in mind how hard some people find impromptu speaking. For example, someone uncomfortable with Topics who feels a sense of achievement by merely remaining somewhat vertical is going to be disheartened by a thesis on how they could have improved their body language. A suggested Topics Evaluation routine is one commendation, one recommendation then one commendation; each expressed in a nutshell.
  • Above all, in any evaluation … bear in mind that everyone finds naked criticism of their efforts hurtful – not just you!

Speakers

First Timers

  • People come to Toastmasters for all kinds of reasons and from a very wide variety of backgrounds. For newcomers, it can be somewhat intimidating to see people who have been through a book or two already and who seem like very polished speakers. You may think, “Am I in the right place? Do I have anything to offer?” Don’t let yourself get caught up in lines of questioning like this. Everyone has been a beginner. Everyone has felt the initial nervous jitter. And everyone has wondered to themselves what on earth they were going to do for their first speech!
  • My advice about getting involved in this, try Toastmaster’s out for two weeks. Participate when called upon and get to know everyone by name. Then put in your application, because the real fun begins once you are a member and you get your first two books in the mail. Then you will better see the structure of the club and how it will help you be the speaker you want to be.
  • Once you have the books, don’t wait. Jump in with both feet. Open the books and review the material. You will need about an hour to familiarize yourself with the material, and about an hour to decide on the topic you want to write about.
  • When sitting down to prepare your first speech, don’t settle on the first topic that comes to mind. Flesh it out. Free write about it for a bit and dig into the material. Find some valuable nugget of information or an interesting point or detail. Then structure your speech around it. Avoid a linear construction of time, as in, “first this happened, then that happened”, and focus instead on the point you want to make. Think topics such as, “Love hurts, but I am strong,” “Single is heaven, but children make happiness full.” Spend about an hour on the construction, then another hour on refinement. This means you will have about three hours total invested in your first speech, not including what you have spent familiarizing yourself with the manuals. This way you will be prepared and confident when it comes time to deliver your first speech.
  • Best of luck to you newcomers! We are glad to have you and interested in what makes you, you. We love diversity and inclusion and look forward to all the good times to come.

Prepared Speaker

A major portion of each meeting is centred on two, three or more Prepared Speakers. Speeches typically last from five to seven minutes.
Preparation is essential!

The Speaker:

  • Is responsible for finding their own replacement if they are not able to speak and notifying the Toastmaster of the meeting
  • Should work through the Toastmaster communication manuals
  • Should inform the Evaluator about what particular elements they are working on, such as voice, gestures, elimination of notes, etc. Let her/his evaluator know about goals and personal concerns
  • Should provide the Evaluator with their manual in order for the Evaluator to make written comments about the speech
  • Must tell the Toastmaster of the meeting how many minutes are required for the speech

A few tips:

  • Check the schedule to see when you are on the programme
  • Choose a seat that makes it easy for you to get to the lectern
  • When you begin your speech, acknowledge your fellow Toastmasters and guests
  • Plan your speech closing as carefully as your opening. Those finishing touches will bring on the applause and really make a mark!
  • Never thank your audience. The audience will be thanking you for your effort with their applause