The success of a Toastmasters meeting depends on the program’s participants. There are many roles to fill, and each job is designed to improve the members’ public speaking and leadership skills. Program participants must know and understand their duties so they can prepare to perform them.
Serve as the dignitary to open and close the meeting
The “presiding officer” is the highest-ranking officer who is attending the meeting. Ideally, the presiding officer of a club meeting is the club’s president. However, if the club’s president is absent then the club’s next highest-ranking officer will serve as the meeting’s presiding officer. The order of club officer rank is:
- Vice President Education
- Vice President Membership
- Vice President Public Relations
- Immediate Past President
Open the meeting
Upon induction of the club meeting* by the Sergeant-Arms, the presiding officer opens the meeting by:
- Welcoming fellow members and guests
- Offering a quick statement or two regarding the meeting at hand
- Initiating brief attendee introductions beginning with him- or herself
- Asking all attendees, members and guests, to briefly introduce themselves one at a time
- Introduce the Toastmaster of the Evening
Close the meeting
The club’s meeting will progress through its agenda—Toastmaster of the Evening, prepared speeches, Table Topics, speech evaluations, General Evaluator’s reports—at which moment the presiding officer is re-introduced to perform club business and close the meeting, as follows and as time allows:
- Offer a brief statement or two regarding the club’s meeting
- Conduct official club business
- Make club-related general announcements
- Inquire from guests to offer their thoughts of the club’s meeting
- Present the awards to the meeting’s Best Speaker, Best Evaluator, Best Table Topics Speaker, Icebreaker, etc.
- Close the meeting
*NOTE: The induction of the club meeting is typically performed by the club’s Sergeant-at-Arms. In the event that the Sergeant-at-Arms is not present, then the next highest-ranking officer in attendance, beginning with the club’s Treasurer, will perform the induction.
You are the emcee
The Toastmaster of the Evening (TMOE) is the meeting’s director and host. You won’t usually be assigned this role until you deemed as thoroughly familiar with the club and its procedures. If you need assistance to prepare to serve as TMOE then ask your club mentor or the club’s Vice President of Education (VPE) for advice well before the meeting.
Prepare for your role, and those of your team, several days in advance
First, you will need to know who has been selected to fill the meeting roles. You should have received notice of your selection to serve as TMOE shortly after the previous club meeting. That notice should contain a listing of the other members pre-selected to perform specific meeting roles, such as General Evaluator, Timer, etc.
It is of extreme importance that you inform those with meeting roles of their duties. Certainly, you should ask your General Evaluator to assist you. The General Evaluator is responsible to contact the members of the meeting’s team – Speech Evaluators, Table Topics Master, Timer, and Grammarian—and remind them of their responsibilities. Remember, however, as the “director,” you’re ultimately responsible for ensuring that all of the meeting’s participants know the particulars of their roles.
Club members who are assigned meeting roles—specifically relatively new club members—may need to be apprised as to how to perform their specific role. You and your General Evaluator must ensure that all those performing a meeting role are fully prepared to succeed in their roles. All procedures for members to successfully perform their meeting roles are contained in the listing contained below within this page—refer your team to them as necessary.
Plan a theme for the meeting
In order for your team to complete their preparations to perform a meeting role, inform your team of the meeting’s theme that you have chosen. Specifically, your Grammarian needs to know the meeting’s theme in order to select an appropriate Word of the Day. Additionally, your Table Topics Master may want to devise questions that relate to your chosen theme. Let your team know of your meeting theme as early as possible to help them succeed in their roles.
Set the meeting’s agenda
You’ll also need to create a meeting agenda to share with those who attend the meeting. A template for the agenda should have been provided to you within your notification to serve as TMOE. Otherwise, you may find the template for download using the link above. A word of advise—adhere to the provided agenda template when performing your role as TMOE. In other words, don’t try to “wing it.” Follow the established plan for the typical meeting.
Be the Toastmaster of the Evening
A few days before the club meeting, confer with your team once more to ensure that they are ready to perform and meet success. This is also a good time to ask those who are presenting a prepared speech what the speech project the member is completing, the speech title, and any specific introduction that the speaker may require.
On the day of the meeting, finalize your meeting agenda, print it out, and distribute it to the audience at their seats. Arrive early to the meeting venue in order to help prepare the room for the ensuing meeting. At 6:30pm, it is time for your meeting to begin.
The meeting begins with the induction from the Club’s Sergeant-at-Arms (or by the next available appropriate club officer). The club’s President (or the next highest presiding officer) will be introduced to welcome fellow members and guests and offer any opening statements. Shortly thereafter, the President will introduce you as the TMOE. Now it is your time to shine!
- Welcome your fellow members and guests
- State your purpose as TMOE
- Speak about your chosen meeting theme
- Introduce your General Evaluator and allow him or her to introduce the meeting’s team
- Introduce each of the presenters of prepared speeches and allow them to deliver their speeches
- Introduce the Table Topics Master to perform the Table Topics portion of the meeting
- Provide closing remarks
- Introduce your General Evaluator to perform the evaluation portions of the meeting
- YOUR DAY IS DONE!
Tips to run a successful meeting
TIP #1: Most of what you do as TMOE is to introduce others to perform their meeting roles. Of particular importance is the method of your introduction of those presenting a prepared speech.
Begin by asking the speech’s evaluator to provide the impetus of their evaluation:
- Speech topic and/or title
- Project title
- Assignment objectives
- Speaker’s personal objectives
- Delivery time
Upon completion of the evaluator’s statements, the speaker is then introduced. If a speaker has not offered you his or her own introduction, then it is up to you to provide a generic introduction as follows by stating:
- Name of Speaker
- Speech title
- Speech title
- Name of speaker
- Shake the speaker’s hand and allow the speaker full use of the stage
TIP #2: Lead the applause. the audience will take take your lead when it comes to applause, no matter its purpose. For instance, begin your applause as you introduce any speaker and maintain that applause until you transfer the stage to that speaker. When the speaker has completed his or her speaking task, then begin the applause and maintain it as you dismiss the the current speaker from the stage.
Applause is important. It the most dignified way that an audience can offer their appreciation and esteem to a performer. It is also the most welcomed reward for a performer to receive and accept. Applause often and with vigor. The performer deserves it.
TIP #3: Don’t ever leave the stage empty. Always greet the speaker that you have just introduced, usually with a handshake and then offer the speaker full use of the stage. When the performance has been completed, greet the performer to congratulate him or her and dismiss him or her from the stage. The stage should NEVER be void.
TIP #4: Pay attention to the time. You are responsible for beginning and ending the meeting on time. Strive to ensure each meeting segment adheres to your pre-set agenda. You may have to adjust the schedule on the fly during the meeting to accomplish timeliness. Slow things down or speed them up whenever necessary.
TIP#5: Most importantly it is always best to keep in mind that the general task of the Toastmaster of the Evening, as well as all Old Town Toastmasters, is to S P E A K . L E A D . S U C C E E D .
Make the meeting run smoothly—from behind the scenes
Don’t worry, there’s no capital punishment during Old Town Toastmasters’ meetings. Unless, of course, the Sergeant-at-Arms is in a foul mood.
Prime your Evaluation Team
If you think of a club meeting as a project, then you can see the General Evaluator (GE) as a kind of project manager. As GE, your responsibilities include:
- Making sure each meeting activity is performed correctly
- Ensuring your team of administrators and evaluators know their responsibilities
- Supervising your Timer, Grammarian, Table Topics Master
- Evaluating everything that takes place during the club meeting
- Presenting your General Evaluation report
Several days before the meeting, contact the person who will be Toastmaster of the meeting and confirm the meeting program. You should also develop a checklist to follow during the meeting so you don’t have to keep all the details in your head.
You need to contact your “Evaluation Team” and ensure that each will be able to perform their role:
- Table Topics Master
- Speech Evaluators
Remind them of their assignments and brief them of their responsibilities if necessary. Remember to inform Speech Evaluators who they are evaluating. Make sure the Evaluation Team understands that evaluation is a positive “teaching” moment that enables fellow Toastmasters to develop their skills. Point out that an evaluation should enhance the speaker’s self-esteem and encourage Evaluators to prepare thoroughly for their role. Recommend that they contact the member they’ve been assigned to evaluate and discuss specific project objectives.
Prepare to “Evaluate”
On meeting day:
- Arrive early.
- Make sure all Evaluators are present and that they have the appropriate evaluation form (the speaker should provide it upon request)
- If an Evaluator is absent, consult with the Toastmaster of the Evening (TMOE) to arrange for a substitute.
- Ask each Evaluator if he or she has any questions about the project objectives to be evaluated, verify each speaker’s speech duration, and notify the timer if there are any changes.
- Take your seat near the back of the room. This will ensure you have a good view of the meeting and all its participants.
During the meeting, use your checklist and take notes on everything that happens (or doesn’t, but should). For example: Were there any unnecessary distractions that could have been avoided? Did the meeting, and each segment of it, begin and end on time? Were meeting procedures followed correctly?
Study each participant of the program, from the Sergeant-at-Arm’s invocation to the last report by the Timer. Look for exemplary and less than desirable examples of preparation, organization, delivery, enthusiasm, and general performance of duties. Prepare tips for improvement. Be honest and forthright in order to help all members iprove the
Introduce your Evaluation Team
Early in the meeting, the TMOE will introduce you to introduce your “Evaluation Team.” Ask each member of your team (excluding Speech Evaluators—the TMOE will perform that duty) to provide the audience with a synopsis of their roles. Upon completion, return control of the meeting to the TMOE.
Let the evaluations begin
At the conclusion of the TMOE’s portion of the meeting, the TMOE will introduce the General Evaluation portion of the meeting. The General Evaluator assumes control of the meeting—introducing each Speech Evaluator to perform their evaluation followed by the Grammarian’s and Timer’s reports.
Present your evaluation of the meeting
Finally, give your general evaluation of the meeting:
- Use your checklist and the notes you took during the meeting.
- Phrase your evaluation so it is helpful, encouraging, and motivating to club members to implement the suggestions during future meetings.
- You may wish to comment on the quality of evaluations. Were they positive, upbeat, helpful? Did they point the way to improvement?
- When you’ve completed your evaluation, return control of the meeting to the club’s President (or the presiding club officer).
Being General Evaluator is a big responsibility and it is integral to the success of every single club member. People join Toastmasters because they have a goal–they want to learn something. The club is where they learn. If the learning environment isn’t focused and fun, members won’t learn what they joined to learn. Your observations and suggestions help ensure our club is meeting the goals and needs of each member.
And what do you get out of the deal? You get the chance to practice and improve your skills in critical thinking, planning, preparation and organization, time management, motivation, and team building!
Timing is crucial
As Timer, you are responsible for monitoring the duration for each meeting segment and each speaker. You’ll also operate the timing signal, indicating to each speaker how their use of time is progressing. Serving as Timer is an excellent opportunity to practice giving instructions and officiating time management—something we do every day.
Here’s how to succeed as Timer:
- Before the meeting, contact the Toastmaster of the Evening and General Evaluator to confirm which members are scheduled program participants. Then contact each speaker to confirm the amount time allocated for their prepared speech.
- On meeting day, retrieve the timing equipment from the Sergeant at Arms. Be sure you understand how to operate the signal device, make certain the timing equipment works, and sit where the signal device can be seen by all.
- The General Evaluator will call on you to explain the timing rules (below) and demonstrate the signaling device.
- Throughout the meeting, listen carefully to each program participant and signal them appropriately when they have reached timing milestones (rules):
- Green = Speeches, two minutes remain • Table Topics, one minute remains • Evaluations, one minute remains
- Yellow = Speeches, one minute remains • Table Topics, 30 seconds remain • Evaluations, 30 seconds remain
- Red = Allocated time reached
- Important Note: All speaking performances allow a 30-second grace period below the allocated minimum times and above the allocated maximum times—for example a 5 – 7 minute speech qualifies as successful if performed in no less than four minutes-30 seconds or no greater than seven minutes-30 seconds. In either event, time the speaker to the conclusion of the speech.
- Record each participant’s name and time used. Make a note indicating when a speaker did not speak within their allotted time with deference to the 30-second grace periods mentioned above. Report such “disqualifications” to the presiding officer during Ballot Counting procedures (see below).
- When you’re called to present your report by the General Evaluator, announce the speaker’s name and the time taken.
- After the meeting, return the timing signal device to the Sergeant-at-Arms.
The Timer also performs the role of Ballot Counter:
During a typical meeting, the audience votes for Best Table Topics Speaker, Best Speaker (performer of a prepared speech), and Best Speech Evaluator. The role of the Ballot Counter is to collect and count the ballots cast for each category:
- Voting occurs after each related portion of the meeting. For example, as Table Topics ends there is a one-minute moment of silence offered in order to vote.
- The audience prepares their votes and the Ballot Counter collects the ballots.
- The Ballot Counter then tabulates the votes, notes each speaker who incurred a time disqualification, and provides the presiding officer with the names of the winning members for a short award presentation toward the end of the meeting.
- VERY IMPORTANT! Seek out the Sergeant-at-Arms before the meeting and ask him or her to provide you with the appropriate award ribbons for each award presentation. The presiding officer (or, the award presenter) will collect the award ribbons from you for presentation to their ultimate recipients
Take on this role and the new habits formed will serve you well in your private life and your career. People appreciate a speaker, friend, or employee who is mindful of time and deadlines.
Help the club speak and speak well
One benefit of a membership in Toastmasters is that it helps members improve grammar and word use. As Grammarian, you perform the first line of service to guide members to seek and execute self-improvement and skillfully deliver their speaking acumen across the interpersonal communication spectrum.
The Grammarian holds three responsibilities:
- Introduce the Word of the Day.
- Serve as the “Ah-Counter,” requiring you to note any word or sound used as a crutch by anyone who speaks during the meeting. Words may be inappropriate interjections, such as and, well, but, so, and you know. Sounds may be ah, um or er. You should also note when a speaker unnecessarily repeats a word or phrase within their speech, such as “With that…” or “This means… this means…” Such filler-words and -sounds should be substituted with a pause—the audience will allow it. Upon eliminating such fillers, the speaker gains greater credibility among the audience due to a perception of flowing thought and unbroken knowledge of their subject.
- During your end-of-meeting Grammarian’s report, comment on language usage during the course of the meeting. Provide examples of eloquence, exemplary language usage, and language usage that requires improvement.
Before the Meeting
Several days before the meeting, select a “word of the day”:
- It should be a word that will help members increase their vocabulary—a word 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.
- Print your word, its part of speech (adjective, adverb, noun, verb) and a brief definition in letters large enough to be seen from the back of the room.
- Prepare a sentence showing how the word is used.
During the Meeting
Before the meeting begins, place your visual aid at the front of the room where everyone can see it. Also get a blank piece of paper and pen ready to make notes.
- Briefly explain the role of the Grammarian and Ah-counter.
- Announce the word of the day, state its part of speech, define it, use it in a sentence and ask that anyone speaking during any part of the meeting use it.
Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone’s word usage. Write down any awkward use or misuse of the language (incomplete sentences, sentences that change direction in midstream, incorrect grammar or malapropisms) with a note of who erred. For example, point out if someone used a singular verb with a plural subject. “One in five children wear glasses.” should be “One in five children wears glasses.” Note when a pronoun is misused. “No one in the choir sings better than her.” should be “No one in the choir sings better than she.”
In addition, throughout the meeting, listen to everyone for sounds and awkward pauses (too long) used as fillers and not as a necessary part of good sentence structure or dramatic effect. Write down how many filler sounds or words each person used during all portions of the meeting.
Also be sure to write down 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, present your report:
- Inform the audience of each member who used filler words/sounds while speaking and how many times each was uttered
- Offer the correct usage in every instance of grammar misuse (instead of merely announcing that something was wrong).
- Report on creative language usage and announce who used the word of the day (or a derivative of it) correctly or incorrectly.
Show your vocal verve!
No doubt you’ve guessed that the speaking program is the center of every Toastmasters meeting. After all, what’s Toastmasters without speaking? But members don’t just stand up and start yakking. They use the guidelines set forth within the Toastmasters Pathways® program to fully prepare their presentations.
Typical speeches last 5-7 minutes. Advanced speeches may have longer requirements. Your speeches’ requirements described within Pathways will include a speech or project evaluation form for you to provide to your assigned Speech Evaluator (details below).
Every speaker is a role model and club members learn from one another’s speeches. Prepare and rehearse to ensure you present the best speech possible. Don’t insult your fellow club members by delivering a poorly prepared speech. However, it’s also true that no speech is perfect. So, get out there and give it your best shot! Here’s what to do:
- Check our club’s meeting schedule regularly to sign up to speak. Begin working on the speech at least a week in advance of the meeting. That way, you have enough time to devote to research, organization and rehearsal.
- If you don’t write your own speech introduction, make sure the Toastmaster of the Evening (TMOE) prepares a generic one for you by providing him or her with your speech title.
- Generally, several days before the meeting, your Speech Evaluator will contact you. Contact the club’s leadership if this does not occur. Discuss with your Evaluator the speech you plan give. Apprise your Evaluator with your developmental goals and personal concerns. Let your Evaluator know where you believe your presentation skills need strengthening, so he or she can pay special attention to those aspects of your speech delivery.
- You should arrive at the meeting early to assess your physical speaking space. If you have props or are using a projector/screen then perform a check that all has been provided, is set up, and is operating properly. Don’t rely on those who are administering the club meeting to ensure that the means for your successful speech are met—that’s the speaker’s responsibility
- During the meeting, give your full attention to the speakers at the lectern. Don’t study your speech notes while someone else is talking. When you’re introduced, smoothly and confidently leave your chair and walk to the lectern. After your speech, wait for the TMOE to return to the stage to dismiss you, then return to your seat. Listen intently during your evaluation for helpful hints that will assist you to build a better communication style.
- After the meeting, your Speech Evaluator will return your completed evaluation form. Discuss any questions you may have concerning your evaluation to clarify and avoid any misinterpretations.
- Finally, complete the project in accordance to its instructions in your online Pathways Base-Camp account.
You’ll enjoy a growing sense of confidence as you repeat these steps with each new speech project. Don’t be afraid to do the work, enjoy the applause, and reap the educational benefits. Your courage will be rewarded. Remember, speaking is a learning process—there is the speech you planned, the speech you presented, and the speech you wish you presented. Take that to heart and improve yourself.
The “Speech Evaluator”—observe, formulate, relate, assist
People join Toastmasters to improve their speaking and leadership skills, and these skills are improved with the help of evaluations. Members complete speeches and projects and you may be asked to evaluate their work. At some point, everyone is asked to participate by providing an evaluation. You will provide both verbal and written evaluations for speakers. Sometimes verbal evaluations are given during the meeting and sometimes they are given privately, after the meeting. Check with the Vice President of Education or the Toastmaster of the Evening if you’re not sure about the process.
Several days before the meeting, review the Effective Evaluation manual. Talk with the speaker or leader you’ve been assigned to receive a preview of what the member’s project entails, the project’s goals, and what the speaker seeks to achieve.
Evaluation requires careful observation of the speaker
Study the project objectives as well as the evaluation guide provided by your speaker. Remember, the purpose of evaluation is to help people develop their skills in various situations or under certain conditions. By actively listening, providing reinforcement for their strengths, and gently offering useful advice, you motivate members to work hard and improve. When you show ways to improvement, you’ve opened the door to strengthening their abilities.
When you arrive at the meeting, speak briefly with the General Evaluator to confirm the evaluation is to transpire. When the speech begins then pay attention and observe closely.
Record your observations and impressions in the evaluation form. Be as objective as possible. Remember that good evaluations may give new life to discouraged members and poor evaluations may dishearten members who tried their best. Always provide specific methods for improving and present them in a positive manner.
If you’re giving a verbal evaluation, you will be introduced and summoned to the stage. Though you may have written lengthy responses on the provided evaluation form, don’t read the form verbatim to form your oral evaluation. Your oral evaluation time is limited. Don’t try to cover too much in your talk—two or three points is plenty. Adhere to observations and avoid subjective generalizations—say, “I saw that you did [this]… next time try [that].” rather than “You kinda messed up. You can do better.”
Begin and end your evaluation with a note of encouragement or praise. Commend a successful speech and describe specifically how it was successful. Don’t allow the speaker to remain unaware of a valuable asset such as a smile or a sense of humor. Likewise, don’t permit the speaker or leader to remain ignorant of a serious fault: if it is a problem of a “personal” nature then use discretion. Either write it down or tell the speaker privately, but don’t mention it aloud. Give the speaker deserved praise and tactful suggestions in the manner you would like to receive them (hence, the “Golden Rule”).
After the meeting, return the evaluation form to the speaker. Add another word of encouragement and answer any questions the member may have.
By giving feedback, you are personally contributing to your fellow members’ improvement. Preparing and presenting evaluations is also an opportunity for you to practice your listening, critical thinking, feedback, and motivation skills. And when the time comes to receive feedback, you’ll have a better understanding of the process.
Ask questions, receive answers
The Table Topics Master gives members who aren’t assigned a speaking role the opportunity to speak during the meeting. The Table Topics Master challenges each participant with a question or subject, allowing the speaker to respond with a one- to two-minute impromptu answer or speech.
Not only does this role provide you with an opportunity to practice planning, preparation, organization, time management, and facilitation skills; your preparation and topic selection help train members to quickly organize and express their thoughts in an impromptu setting.
Preparation is the key to leading a successful Table Topics session:
- Several days before the meeting, check with the Toastmaster of the Evening to learn the chosen theme for the meeting. If so, prepare topics reflecting that theme.
- Call on members who do not have a formal meeting role or who are presenting a speech—this gives everyone an opportunity to speak.
- Select subjects and questions that allow speakers to offer opinions. Keep it simple and uncontroversial, you are not there to “trip-up” the respondent, provoke, or seek a potentially uncomfortable answer. Don’t ask questions that are too long or complicated and make sure they don’t require specialized knowledge.
- Phrase questions so the speakers clearly understand what you want them to talk about.
Remember, too, that your job is to give others a chance to speak, so keep your own comments short.
When the Toastmaster of the Evening (TMOE) introduces you, assume control of the stage:
- Briefly state the purpose of Table Topics and mention any theme.
- Encourage speakers to use the word of the day in their response.
- Be certain everyone understands the maximum time they have for their responses.
Then begin the program:
- Give each speaker a different topic or question and call on speakers at random.
- Avoid going around the room in the order in which people are sitting.
- Don’t ask two people the same thing unless you specify that each must give opposing viewpoints.
- State the question briefly then call on a respondent.
- You may wish to invite visitors and guests to participate after they have seen one or two members’ responses. Allow visitors the option to decline to participate if they feel uncomfortable. If you have the opportunity, ask guests before the meeting begins if they would be willing to participate in Table Topics.
Watch your total time. You may need to adjust the number of questions so your segment ends on time. Even if your portion started late, try to end on time to avoid the total meeting running overtime.
- Offer a one-minute period of silence and ask members to vote for best the Best Table Topics speaker (awarded at the end of the meeting).
Return control of the meeting to the TMOE.
Receive a question, offer an answer
Most of the talking we do every day—simple conversation—is impromptu speaking. Yet for some members, Table Topics is the most challenging part of a Toastmasters meeting.
Table Topics continues a long-standing Toastmasters tradition–every member speaks at a meeting. But it’s about more than just carrying on an anxiety-ridden tradition. Table Topics is about developing your ability to organize your thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic.
Table Topics begins after the prepared speech presentations. The Toastmaster of the Evening will introduce the Table Topics Master who will assume control of the stage. He or she will give a brief description of the purpose of Table Topics and mention if the topics will carry a theme.
The Table Topics Master will state the question or topic briefly and then call on a respondent. Each speaker receives a different topic or question and participants are called on at random.
When you’re asked to respond to a topic, stand next to your chair and give your response. Aim for a response that lasts at least one minute, but no more than two minutes.
Now, take a deep breath and get ready to be remarkable!