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Toastmaster Roles
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Toastmasters Clubs


Cochise County, Arizona


Toastmaster Meeting Roles


Toastmaster meetings provide a number of opportunities for members to participate and improve their leadership skills.  Following is a description of the meeting roles a Toastmaster is likely to encounter.  Please bear in mind that some minor roles (Quizmaster, Jokemaster, and so on) may be implemented in some clubs and not in others.


Presiding Officer

The Presiding Officer is unique in that it is the only role in a Toastmaster meeting that does not rotate among the membership.  The Presiding Officer is always the Club President or, in the President's absence, another Club officer.  The Presiding Officer opens the meeting, presides over the business section of the meeting, and closes the meeting.


When You Are The Toastmaster:

The Toastmaster is the person ultimately responsible for the conduct of the meeting.  The success of a meeting is tied directly to the performance of the Toastmaster.  For this reason, this task is usually not assigned to a member until they are familiar with the club and its procedures.  A member should have at least given their Icebreaker speech and attended three or four meetings before taking on this role.  Ideally, they will have rotated through each of the other duties prior to taking on this role.

The primary duty of the Toastmaster is to act as a genial host and conduct the entire program.  The Toastmaster faces the task of introducing the other members of the program.  Program participants should be introduced in such a manner as to prepare the audience to listen with excitement and rapt attention.  It is the Toastmaster who creates an atmosphere of interest, excitement, and receptivity.

The Toastmaster is also responsible for ensuring that the meeting does not run overtime.  That means making short comments in between meeting segments to ensure a smoothly run meeting.  You must also watch the time used by other participants, particularly the programs run by the Table Topics Master and General Evaluator and, if necessary, advise them when to make adjustments as the meeting progresses.

Before the Meeting:

Check with the Vice President Education to find out if there are any program changes.  If your club has a theme for meetings, find out if one has been set.

Contact the Speakers and remind them they are speaking.  Find out their speech number, speech title, manual project number, objective, time requested, and something interesting about them which you can use when introducing them (job, family, hobbies, education, why this topic to this audience).

Contact the General Evaluator with the names of the Speakers and the speech numbers.  Have the General Evaluator contact the other members of the Evaluation Team (Timer, Speech Evaluators, Ah Counter, Grammarian).

Contact the Table Topics Master to discuss their duties.  Provide the Table Topics Master with a list of program participants to ensure these people will not be called on for Topic responses.

Contact any other roles that your club may use (JokeMaster, QuizMaster, Pledge/Invocation, Word of the Day, Thought of the Day, and so on), and ensure they are aware and prepared for their roles.

Scheduled members who are not able to attend the meeting should find a replacement for their task.  However, the Toastmaster is ultimately responsible for assuring all positions (excluding the Evaluators - that is the General Evaluator's task) are assigned.

Prepare introductions for each Speaker.  A proper introduction is important to the success of the Speaker's presentation.  Introductions should be no longer than one minute.  Read "How to Introduce a Speaker" in the Competent Communicator manual.  Be sure you know the Toastmaster rank (CTM, ATM, DTM, CC, ACB, and so on) of each person you are introducing, and make sure you use it.

Prepare introductions for the Table Topics Master and Chief Evaluator.  Contact them for any biographical information that might be helpful.

Prepare your own introduction for the meeting.  If a theme has been set for the meeting, try to weave that theme throughout the meeting by using it in introductions, summary, and so on.

Prepare the meeting agenda.  Some clubs put the duty of preparing each weekly agenda on the Vice President Education, while others make that part of the Toastmaster's duties.  If your club has that as part of the Toastmaster duties, then prepare the agenda with the most current information available and make sufficient copies for the meeting.

Other sources of information to be a better Toastmaster can be found in your first Toastmaster manual (the Competent Communicator manual) and in the pamphlet entitled, "A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats."

Call the President or Vice President Education for help or advice as needed.

 During the Meeting:

Arrive early to address any last minute details.

Make sure to place a meeting agenda at each seat and at the lectern prior to the start of the meeting.

Take a place near the head of the table, and have your Speakers do likewise for quick access to the lectern.

Encourage Speakers to talk with their Evaluators before the meeting begins.

When the Presiding Officer turns control of the meeting over to you, walk quickly to the lectern.  You are in charge of the meeting.  Address the group as follows:  "Thank you, Mr./Madam President.  Fellow Toastmasters and Honored Guests."  Make your introductory remarks in one minute or less.

Preside with sincerity, energy, and decisiveness.  Take your audience on a pleasant journey and make them feel that all is going well.

Make sure all program participants are in attendance.  If some fail to show up, appoint replacements at the start of the meeting.  If an Evaluation Functionary is not present, inform the Chief Evaluator that they need to assign one.

It is your responsibility to alert participants who go over their time and indicate to them they should immediately conclude their portion of the program.

Always lead the applause before and after the Table Topics session, each Speaker, and the General Evaluator.

When handing off control of the meeting to another meeting participant (Table Topics Master, Speaker, General Evaluator), remain standing at the lectern until the participant walks to the lectern, shake hands firmly, and then move to your seat.  Do not walk from the lectern to meet the participant halfway.

Introduce the Table Topics Master as you would any speaker.  After Table Topics, make sure to call for the Timer's Report.

Introduce each Speaker in turn with your prepared introduction, being sure to include the manual assignment number, manual assignment name and objectives, speaker background, speech title, and speaker's name last, and speaker's rank.  You do not have to give speaker background if it is the Icebreaker, as that is the purpose of the assignment.

Lead the applause and remain at the lectern until the Speaker arrives to shake your hand.  Then sit down.

At the end of each presentation, lead the applause as you return to the lectern to shake the Speaker's hand.  Offer a brief word of appreciation to bridge the gap between presentations and keep the audience's interest.

At the conclusion of the speaking program, request the Timer's Report.

Briefly introduce the General Evaluator.  Lead the applause and remain at the lectern until they arrive to shake your hand.  Then sit down.

When the General Evaluator returns control to you, walk quickly to the lectern and shake hands.

If the General Evaluator forgets to call for the Timer's Report, you do it.

Provide your closing remarks, and return control to the Presiding Officer.  Lead the applause and wait for the Presiding Officer to arrive at the lectern and shake hands before returning to your seat.


When Your Role is the Invocation or Thought of the Day and Pledge of Allegiance

No prior experience required for this role.  The invocation should take no more than one minute.

Before the Meeting:

Prepare a brief thought of saying in line with the theme of the meeting to inspire the group.  Remember this is not a religious organization and the invocation should not sound like a prayer, in deference to the varied beliefs of our members.

During the Meeting:

When called upon, stand at your place and say to the guests and members, "Please stand, face the flag, and join me in the pledge of allegiance."  Turn and face the flag, place your hand over your heart and lead in group in the pledge.

When finished, be seated.  It is not necessary to return control to the Toastmaster.


When You are the Table Topics Master

Toastmasters has a tradition - every member speaks at a meeting.  The Table Topics session is that portion of the meeting which ensures this tradition.  The purpose of this period is to have members "think on their feet" and speak for one to two minutes.  The Table Topics Master prepares and issues topics.  Originality is desirable as much as possible.  Each speaker may be given an individual subject or a choice of subjects may be presented from which the member can draw at random.

Before the Meeting:

Before the meeting, check with the Toastmaster to find out if a theme meeting is scheduled.  If so, prepare topics to carry out that theme.  If no theme is scheduled, choose a wide selection of topics.  Review the Toastmaster Magazine and other publications or the Internet for ideas.  Do not repeat the previous week's topic ideas.

Find out who the prepared Speakers, Evaluators, General Evaluator and Toastmaster are so you can call on other members first.  Remember, this is the opportunity for members without an assigned speaking role to participate.  Only if time permits or if there is a shortage of members present should you call on program participants (speakers last).

When choosing specific questions, select ones that inspire the speakers to expound on them, give their opinions, and so on.  Don't make the question too long or too complicated.  Phrase them in such a way that the speaker will know clearly what you want them to talk about.

Keep your comments short.  Your job is to give others a chance to speak, not give a series of mini-talks yourself.

Remember, Table Topics has a two-fold purpose:  First, to give everyone in the room an opportunity to speak - especially those not on the program; and secondly, to get people to learn to "think and speak on their feet."

During the Meeting:

When the Toastmaster introduces you, walk quickly to the lectern and shake hands to take control of the lectern.  Briefly state the purpose of Table Topics.  Set the stage for your Topics program.  Keep your remarks brief but enthusiastic.  Be sure to encourage the use of the "Word of the Day."

State the question briefly - then call on a respondent.  This serves two purposes:  First, it should hold everyone's attention.  Each person should be thinking of a response if they should be called upon to speak.  Second, it adds to the value of the impromptu element by giving everyone an opportunity to improve their listening and thinking skills.

After calling on a member, lead the applause as they stand.  This is not only courteous, it gives the respondent a few seconds to organize their thoughts on the topic.  The respondent should stand in place and not approach the lectern.

Watch out for the total time!  Adjust the number of questions to end your segment on time.  Even if your portion started late, try to end on time to avoid the meeting running overtime.

When you are finished, return control to the Toastmaster by turning to where they are seated and saying, "Mr./Madame Toastmaster."  Remain standing at the lectern until the Toastmaster resume control by shaking your hand, then take your seat.


When You Are The Speaker

A major portion of the meeting centers around the speakers.  These speeches are based on manual project objectives and should last, generally speaking, from five to seven minutes from Competent Communicator manual speeches and eight or more minutes for advanced manual speeches.

Check the meeting schedule to find out when you are programmed to speak.  In order to get the most benefit from the program, always plan your speeches from the manual, and avoid giving speeches out of order.  Each speech project builds on what has gone before.

Before the Meeting:

Before the meeting ask the General Evaluator who will be your Evaluator.  Speak to your Evaluator and share with him or her which manual speech you will be giving.  Discuss your speech goals and personal concerns with the Evaluator.  Emphasize any areas where you feel your speech ability needs strengthening.  Give the Evaluator the opportunity to read the project and determine the objectives for that project.  Remember to bring your manual to each meeting.

During the Meeting:

Arrive at the meeting early.  Check the microphone, lighting, projector, and so on before everyone arrives.  Protect yourself from the technical problems that can ruin your speech.  Sit near the head of the room for quick and easy access to the lectern.  Make sure to give your manual to your Evaluator before  the meeting starts.  Meet with the Toastmaster prior to the meeting and make certain they have prepared a good introduction if you have not written your own.

As the meeting progresses, give your full attention to the other speakers.  Try to avoid studying speech notes while someone else is talking.  When introduced, smoothly leave your chair and move to the lectern.  Take control of the lectern by shaking hands with the Toastmaster, and pause while the Toastmaster is seated.

As you begin your speech, always acknowledge the Toastmaster and guests.

Plan your speech closing as carefully as your opening.  It's the finishing touch that will bring on applause.  This is your last chance to reach your audience, and it is a notice that your talk is ending.  Never thank your audience, but close your speech and signal you are finished by turning to the Toastmaster and saying, "Mr./Madame Toastmaster."  Stay at the lectern until the Toastmaster arrives, shake hands, and return to your seat.

During the evaluation of your speech, listen intently for helpful hints that will assist in building better future talks.  Pay attention to the advice of other members on improvement.

After the meeting, get your manual from the Evaluator.  At this time discuss any questions you may have concerning your evaluation to clarify any misinterpretations.

Have the Vice President Education initial the Record of Assignment in the back of your manual.


When You Are The General Evaluator

The General Evaluator is just what the name implies - an evaluator of anything and everything that takes place during the meeting.  The General Evaluator is responsible for the evaluation team.  Prior to serving as General Evaluator, a Toastmaster should at least have some experience as an Evaluator.  The time required for this role is one minute at the beginning of the evaluation section of the meeting to explain the role of the evaluator, and one to three minutes at the end for the general evaluation of the meeting.

Before the Meeting:

Before the meeting, check with the Toastmaster to find out how the program will be conducted and if there are any planned deviations from the usual meeting format.  Always be ready when the meeting starts.

Call all of the Evaluators to brief them on their job and to inform them of whom they are evaluating.  Suggest each Evaluator call their Speaker to talk over any special evaluation requirements in the manual for the speech.  Emphasize that evaluation is a positive, helping act.  As conscientious Toastmasters, their goal must be to help fellow Toastmasters to develop their skills.  Emphasize that in the act of evaluating, the self-esteem of the speaker should be enhanced, or at least preserved.  Get biographical information from the Evaluators so you can craft an effective introduction for them.

Call the remaining members of the Evaluation Team (Timer, Grammarian, Ah Counter) to remind them of their assignments.

When scheduling Speakers and Evaluators, try to assign experienced Evaluators to advanced Speakers, as well as to Icebreaker speeches.  It's all right to assign experienced Evaluators to less experienced Speakers, but try not to assign inexperienced Evaluators to advanced Speakers.  The Evaluator may feel uncomfortable and the Speaker may not get an evaluation appropriate for their skill level.

Prepare a brief but thorough talk on the purpose, techniques, and benefits of evaluation for the benefit of the guests.  Emphasize that as evaluators, you are not critics.  Criticism is negative; evaluation is a positive experience designed to help people overcome weak habits and add power to good ones.

During the Meeting:

After arriving at the meeting, ensure the Evaluators have the Speaker's manual and understand the project objectives and how to evaluate it.

Greet all the Evaluators who are present.  If an Evaluator is not present, consult with the Educational Vice President and arrange a substitute.

Verify each Speaker's time and notify the Timer.

Sit near the back of the room to allow yourself full view of the meeting and its participants.

During the meeting, take notes on everything that happens, or that doesn't but should.  For example, is the Club's property (club banner, member progress charts, DCP  chart) properly displayed?  If not, why not?  Were there unnecessary distractions that could have been avoided?  Did the meeting, and each segment, begin and end on time?

After the speaking portion of the meeting, walk quickly to the lectern when introduced by the Toastmaster.  Shake their hand, pause until they are seated, and commence the evaluation portion of the program.

Cover each participant on the program - from opening Pledge to the last report by the Timer.  Look for good and unacceptable examples of preparation, organization, delivery enthusiasm, observation and general performance of duties.  Remember, you are NOT to reevaluate the Speakers, though you may wish to add something the Evaluator may have missed.

If the Toastmaster failed to call for the Timer's report on the Speakers, do so before individual evaluations are given.

Introduce each Evaluator, stating the Speaker's name, speech number and speech title that they will be evaluating.  Don't give the speech objectives.  This is redundant, as the Toastmaster has already stated the objectives in the speech introduction.  The Evaluator states the objectives because that is what they are evaluating.  Always give the Evaluator's name and rank last.

Wait until each Evaluator reaches the lectern, shake their hand, then sit near by.  Lead the applause after each Evaluator has finished as you return to the lectern to shake hands.

After all evaluations are complete, call for the Timer's Report for the evaluations.

Call for the Grammarian and Ah Counter reports.

Wrap up by giving your general evaluation of the meeting, using the notes you took during the meeting.  You may wish to comment on the qualify of the evaluations.  Were they positive, upbeat, helpful?  Did they point the way to improvement?

Conclude your portion of the meeting by turning to the Toastmaster and saying, "Mr./Madame Toastmaster."  Remain at the lectern until they arrive, shake hands, and return to your seat.


When You Are The Evaluator

An evaluation is made for every prepared speech.  After you have presented a few speeches, you will be asked to serve as an Evaluator and will evaluate one of the prepared speakers.  In addition to the oral evaluation, you will give the Speaker a written evaluation from the manual.  Your evaluation can make the difference between a worthwhile or wasted meeting for the Speaker.  The purpose of the evaluation is to help the speaker become less self-conscious.  This requires that you become fully aware of the Speaker's skill level, habits and mannerisms, as well as their progress to date.  If there is a technique the Speaker uses or some gesture made that receives a good response from the audience, tell the Speaker so they will be encouraged to use it again.

Before the Meeting:

Before the meeting carefully review the Effective Speech Evaluation manual which you received in your new member packet from World Headquarters.

Contact the Speaker to find out the manual project they will be presenting.  You should find out the objectives of the speech and what the Speaker hopes to achieve, in terms of reaching the audience.  Find out exactly which skills or techniques the Speaker hopes to strengthen through exercise.

Achievement equals the sum of ability and motivation.  By actively listening and gently offering useful advice, you motivate members to show hard work and improve.  When you show the way to improvement, you've opened the door to strengthening their abilities.

When you arrive at the meeting, look for the Speaker and get their manual.  Meet briefly with the General Evaluator and confirm the meeting schedule.  Then confer with the Speaker one last time to see if they have any specific things they want you to watch for during the speech.

During the Meeting:

During the speech, record your impressions in the manual along with your answers to the evaluation questions.  Be as objective as possible.  Remember that good evaluations may give new life to discouraged members who tried their best.  Remember, always leave the speaker with specific methods for improving his or her speaking.

During your evaluation, praise a successful speech and specifically tell why it was successful.  Don't allow the Speaker to remain unaware of a valuable asset such as a smile, a sense of humor, or a good voice.  Don't allow the Speaker to remain ignorant of a serious fault or mannerism.  If it is personal, write it down but don't mention it aloud.  Give the Speaker the deserved praise and tactful suggestions in the manner you would like to receive when you are Speaker.

After the meeting, return the manual to the Speaker.  Add a verbal word of encouragement, something that was not mentioned in the oral evaluation.


When You Are the Grammarian/Word of the Day

As the Grammarian, you have two basic responsibilities.  First, to introduce new words to members, and second to comment on the use of English during the course of the meeting.

Before the Meeting:

Before the meeting, prepare a Word of the Day.  It should be a word that will help us increase our vocabulary - a word that can easily be incorporated into everyday conversation.  Avoid words whose only virtue is their obtuseness or rarity.  An adjective or adverb is suggested since they are more adaptable than a noun or verb, but feel free to select your own word.

In letters large enough to be seen from the back of the room, print your word, the part of speech and a brief definition.  Prepare a sentence as an example of how to use your word.

Prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the Grammarian for the benefit of guests.  Both the Word of the Day and explaining the Grammarian role should take no more than a minute.

At the meeting, place your visual aid at the front of the room where it can be seen by all.  Make a list of everyone present.

During the Meeting:

When introduced by the Toastmaster, stand at your place and announce the Word of the Day, state its part of speech (adjective, adverb, etc.), define it, use it in a sentence, and request that anyone speaking during any part of the meeting use it.  Then briefly explain the role of Grammarian.

Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone's word usage.  Mark on your list any awkward use or misuse of the language (incomplete sentences, sentences that change direction in midstream, incorrect grammar, etc.) next to the appropriate name.  Write down those who used the Word of the Day, or a derivative of it, and note those who used it correctly or incorrectly.

When called on by the General Evaluator during the Evaluation segment, stand by your chair and give your report.  Try to offer the correct usage in every instance where there was a misuse instead of only explaining what was wrong.  Report on creative language usage and announce who used the Word of the Day or a derivative of it correctly or incorrectly.


When You Are The Ah Counter

The purpose 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 inappropriate interjections such as "and, well, but, so, you know."  Sounds may be "ah, um, er."  You also should note when a Speaker repeats a word or phrase such as "I, I..." or "this means, this means...".  In some Clubs, the role of Ah Counter is folded into the role of Grammarian.

Before the Meeting:

Before the meeting, prepare a brief explanation of the Ah Counter for the benefit of guests.

At the meeting, get a pen and blank piece of paper on which to make notes.

During the Meeting:

When introduced prior to Table Topics, stand in place and explain the role of the Ah Counter.  In some Clubs, small fines are levied on members who do or do not do certain things.  (For example, members are fined who use crutch words, are not wearing their Toastmaster pin or badge to the meeting, etc.).  If your Club levies fines, explain the fine schedule.  Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone for crutch sounds and long pauses used as fillers and not as a necessary part of sentence structure.  Write down how many crutch sounds or words each person used during all portions of the meeting.  Some Clubs may also require the Ah Counter to ring a bell, blow a whistle, or make some other noise to bring a misuse of language to the Speaker's attention as it is happening.  When called on by the General Evaluator, stand in place and give your report.  Neither the explanation or the report should take longer than 30 seconds.

After the meeting, give the completed report to the Treasurer for collection of fines, if appropriate.


When You Are The Timer

You will be called upon to explain the timing rules by the Toastmaster.  One of the lessons to be practiced in speech training is that of expressing a thought within a specific time requirement.  The Timer is the member responsible for keeping track of the time.  Each segment of the meeting is timed.  Your explanation of your duties and report to the Club should be communicated clearly and precisely.  This exercise is an excellent opportunity in practicing communicating instructions - something we do everyday.

Before the Meeting:

Before the meeting, contact the Toastmaster and General Evaluator and confirm the scheduled program participants.  Confirm the time required for each prepared speech with the Speakers.

Write out your explanation in the clearest possible language, and rehearse it.  Be sure to emphasize timing rules and how timing signals will be given for the benefit of guests.

Upon arriving at the meeting, get the timing equipment from the Sergeant at Arms.  Ensure you understand how to operate the stopwatch and signal device, and make certain that it is in good working order.  Sit where the signal device can be easily seen by all (back center of the room).  When using the device, the green signal indicates the minimum required time, the yellow signal halfway to the maximum allowed time, and the red signal indicates the maximum allowed time.

During the Meeting:

When introduced during the meeting, stand in place and explain the timing rules and demonstrate the signal device.  Throughout the meeting, signal each program participant appropriately, depending on the requirements of whichever segment they are involved in.  Time carefully, starting with the first word uttered by the Speaker, and stopping exactly after the last word.  Record each participant's name and time used.  When called upon, stand in place and give a report of each participant's time.  After the meeting, return the stopwatch and signal device to the Sergeant at Arms.  Give the completed time report to the Secretary for recording speech times in the minutes.

The following table contains the typical time for the most common events in the meeting.  Speeches from advanced manual are generally longer than the time given below.  The disqualification times apply to these events during speech contests.

Event Disqualify Green Yellow Red Disqualify
  if time is less than light on at light on at light on at if time is more than
Speech 4:30 5:00 6:00 7:00 7:30
Table Topics 1:00 1:00 1:30 2:00 2:30
Evaluation 1:30 2:00 2:30 3:00 3:30