The success of a Toastmasters meeting depends on the program 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 for them.
Zotspeak’s meeting roles are:
- Ah Counter/ Grammarian
- CL Evaluator
- General Evaluator
- Greeter/ Vote Counter
- Pledge/ Inspiration
- Speech Evaluator
- Hot Seat
Ah Counter/ Grammarian
Ah Counter: Helping members off their crutches
The purpose of the Ah-Counter is 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 repeats a word or phrase such as “I, I” or “This means, this means.” These words and sounds can be annoying to listeners. The Ah-Counter role is an excellent opportunity to practice your listening skills.
Before the Meeting
Several days before the meeting, use the information in A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats or in the appendix of the Competent Communication manual to prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the Ah-Counter for the benefit of guests.
At the Meeting
When you arrive at the meeting, bring a pen and blank piece of paper for notes.
The president will call the meeting to order and introduce the Toastmaster who will, in turn, introduce you and the other meeting participants. When you’re introduced, explain the role of the Ah-Counter.
Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone for sounds and long pauses used as fillers and not as a necessary part of sentence structure. Write down how many filler sounds or words each person used during all portions of the meeting. Zotspeak stops counting at five filler words and in the report say “more than five filler words.”
When you’re called on by the Toastmaster during the evaluation segment, stand by your chair and give your report.
Grammarian: The syntax sentinel
Toastmasters helps people improve their grammar and word use. Being grammarian also provides an exercise in expanding listening skills. You have several responsibilities: to introduce new words to members, to comment on language usage during the course of the meeting, and to provide examples of eloquence.
Before the Meeting
Select a word of the day:
- It should be one 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.
- Email the Toastmaster the word of the day and definition to be added to the meeting agenda.
- 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.
Also, prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the grammarian for the benefit of the guests.
At 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.
- 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.
- Briefly explain the role of the grammarian.
Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone’s word usage. Write down any exceptional or improper uses of the English language.
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:
- Stand by your chair and give your report.
- Try to offer the correct usage in every instance of 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.
Competent Leader (CL) Evaluator
At the Meeting
Each meeting role can be evaluated in the Competent Leadership manual as a step in the Leadership Track. The CL Evaluator gives a written evaluation in the CL manual for members in meeting roles. CL manuals should be passed to the CL Evaluator at the beginning of the meeting. The CL Evaluator should follow the prompts on the evaluation page, paying close attention to the member’s roles during the meeting. The CL manuals are handed back to the members at the end of the meeting.
Improving the process while overseeing the execution.
At the Meeting
- Sit near the back of the room to allow yourself full view of the meeting and its participants.
- Take notes on everything that happens (or doesn’t but should).
- Look for good and unacceptable examples of preparation, organization, enthusiasm, delivery, observation, and general performance of duties. You are not to re-evaluate the speakers.
- Comment on the quality of the evaluations. Did they point the way to improvement?
- Give your report at the end of the meeting when called upon by the Toastmaster. Your report should be 2-3 minutes.
Points to consider:
- Start/Stop on time
- Appropriateness of inspiration
- Table Topics: appropriate questions?
- Evaluations: Were they positive, encouraging? Did they offer specific suggestions for improvement? Did they summarize strengths and weaknesses?
- General: Participants’ preparation and delivery, Guests welcomed and introduced, Administrative details handled smoothly
Greeter/ Vote Counter
- Arrive to the meeting early
- Stand outside of the room
- Introduce yourself and shake hands with every member and guest as they come in
- Be ready to show guests the sign in book and direct them to sit next to an experienced Toastmaster to be their resource for questions during the meeting
- When called upon by the Toastmaster, stand and describe your role and welcome any latecomers
- When called upon by the Toastmaster, stand and describe your role (both as Greeter and Vote Counter)
- Collect the votes for best Table Topic
- Count the ballots, you will cast a ballot only in the case of a tie as a tie-breaker. Do not announce ties or your vote.
- When asked to reveal the Table Topics winner by the Toastmaster, enthusiastically announce the winner and present them with a ribbon.
When asked to give the pledge and inspiration by the President, walk to the front of the room.
Say the pledge before the inspiration. If a non-U.S. citizen is in the role, a member who is a U.S. citizen will lead the pledge and the non-U.S. citizen will proceed to give the inspiration.
Begin the pledge by saying “Please rise. If you are a U.S. citizen, please place your right hand over your heart, and say the pledge with me…”
Be brief, 1-2 minutes
This is a special thought to put everyone in a positive frame of mind. The inspiration can be a short personal thought, a quote, or a brief story.
Each meeting has 1-3 prepared speeches. Speakers use the guidelines in the Competent Communication (CC) manual and the Advanced Communication Series (ACS) manuals to fully prepare their presentations. The CC manual speeches usually last 5-7 minutes. ACS manual project speeches are 5-7 minutes or longer depending upon the assignment.
Before the Meeting
- Check the Duty Roster weeks in advance to see when you are scheduled to speak
- E-mail your Toastmaster and Evaluator your speech introduction including: title, length, and project number from the manual you are working from.
- Send your Evaluator any personal goals or concerns that should be monitored in your speech.
- Remember to bring your manual to the meeting!
- Prepare your speech. Write it, edit, practice out loud, revise it, present to your mentor and keep practicing. Make sure to time your speech when you practice.
At the Meeting
- Arrive early, set up any equipment or props needed
- Give your manual to your Evaluator
- Sit close to the front of the room
- When you are introduced, walk confidently to the front of the room. Walk with confidence back to your seat after you have finished.
- During your evaluation, listen intently and take notes
- At the end of the meeting, have the VP Education initial the Project Completion Record at the back of your manual
Prepared speeches, Table Topics, and evaluations are timed. The timer will sit in front of the speakers and turn on/off a green, amber, and red lightbulb as the speaker hits each time limit.
Prepared Speeches (usually 5-7 minutes but always check with the speaker)
- Green light – 5 minutes Ice Breaker – 4 minutes
- Amber light – 6 minutes Ice Breaker – 5 minutes
- Red light – 7 minutes Ice Breaker – 6 minutes
- Green light – 1 minute
- Amber light – 1 1/2 minutes
- Red light – 2 minutes
Evaluations/ General Evaluation
- Green light – 2 minutes
- Amber light – 2 1/2 minutes
- Red light – 3 minutes
When asked for a report by the Toastmaster, summarize the speakers’ time. For example “All speakers were within time”.
Evaluate to Motivate
Several days before the meeting, review the Effective Evaluation manual you received in your New Member Kit. Talk with the speaker or leader you’ve been assigned to evaluate and find out which manual project they will present. Review the project goals and what the speaker or leader hopes to achieve.
Evaluation requires careful preparation if the speaker or leader is to benefit. Study 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 in various situations. By actively listening, providing reinforcement for their strengths and gently offering useful advice, you motivate members to work hard and improve. When you show the way to improvement, you’ve opened the door to strengthening their ability.
When you arrive at the meeting, speak briefly with the general evaluator to confirm the evaluation session format. Then retrieve the manual from the speaker or leader and ask one last time if he or she has any specific goals in mind.
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 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, stand and speak when introduced. Though you may have written lengthy responses to manual evaluation questions, don’t read the questions or your responses. Your verbal evaluation time is limited. Don’t try to cover too much in your talk; two or three points is plenty.
Begin and end your evaluation with a note of encouragement or praise. Commend a successful speech or leadership assignment and describe specifically how it was successful. Don’t allow the speaker or leader 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 personal, write it but don’t mention it aloud. Give the speaker or leader deserved praise and tactful suggestions in the manner you would like to receive them.
After the meeting, return the manual to the speaker or leader. 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.
For the Table Topics part of the meeting, the Topicsmaster gives members who aren’t assigned a speaking role the opportunity to speak during the meeting. The Topicsmaster challenges each member with a subject, and the speaker responds with a one- to two-minute impromptu talk.
Preparation is the key to leading a successful Table Topics session:
- Several days before the meeting, check with the Toastmaster to find out if a theme meeting is scheduled. If so, prepare topics reflecting that theme.
- Confirm who the prepared speakers, evaluators and general evaluator will be so you can call on other members at the meeting to respond first. You can call on program participants (speakers last) at the end of the topics session if time allows.
- Select subjects and questions that allow speakers to offer opinions. Don’t make the questions 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.
Table Topics begins after the prepared speech presentation.
When the Toastmaster introduces you, walk to the lectern and assume control of the meeting:
- Briefly state the purpose of Table Topics and mention any theme.
- If your club has a word of the day, encourage speakers to use that word in their response.
- Be certain everyone understands the maximum time they have for their response and how the timing device works (if the timer hasn’t already done so).
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.
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.
If your club presents a best Table Topics speaker award:
- Ask the timer at the end of the Table Topics session to report those eligible for the award. Though the times vary among clubs, generally a participant is disqualified for stopping 15 seconds prior to the allowed time or speaking 15 seconds beyond the allowed limit.
- Ask members to vote for best Table Topics speaker and pass their votes to the sergeant at arms or vote counter.
Table Topics Speaker
Table Topics is the impromptu speaking portion of the meeting.
Table Topics begins after the prepared speech presentations. The Toastmaster of the meeting will introduce the Topicsmaster who will walk to the lectern and assume control of the meeting. The Topicsmaster will give a brief description of the purpose of Table Topics and mention if the topics will carry a theme.
The Topicsmaster 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. Your response should last one to two minutes.
You are the Emcee
The Toastmaster is a meeting’s director and host. You won’t usually be assigned this role until you are thoroughly familiar with the club and its procedures. If your club’s customs vary from those described here, ask your mentor or the club vice president education (VPE) for pointers well before the meeting.
Before the Meeting
Begin preparing for your role several days in advance. You can use the Toastmaster’s Check List to help you prepare. You’ll need to know who will fill the other meeting roles and if a theme is planned for the meeting. You’ll also need an up-to-date meeting agenda. Get this information from your VPE.
To help the Topicsmaster, create a list of program participants already assigned a speaking role so he or she can call on others first.
As the Toastmaster, you’ll introduce each speaker. If a speaker will not write his or her own introduction, you will write it. Introductions must be brief and carefully planned. Contact speakers several days before the meeting to ask about:
- Speech topic and title
- Manual and project title
- Assignment objectives
- Speaker’s personal objectives
- Delivery time
You need all of these elements to create your introductions. Remember to keep the introductions between 30-60 seconds in length.
For more information about introductions see When You’re the Introducer (Item 1167E), Introducing the Speaker (Item 111) and The Better Speaker Series module Creating an Introduction (Item 277).
Of course, you want to avoid awkward interruptions or gaps in meeting flow so your last preparation step before the meeting is to plan remarks you can use to make smooth transitions from one portion of the program to another. You may not need them, but you should be prepared for the possibility of awkward periods of silence.
The Day of the Meeting: “The Big Show”
On meeting day, show up early. You’ll need time to make sure the stage is set for a successful meeting. To start, check with each speaker as they arrive to see if they have made any last-minute changes to their speeches – such as changing the title.
You and the speakers will need quick and easy access to the lectern. Direct the speakers to sit near the front of the room and make sure they leave a seat open for you near the front.
When it’s time to start the program, the club president calls the meeting to order. Sometimes he or she will make announcements, introduce guests or conduct other club business before introducing you.
When you’re introduced, the president will wait until you arrive at the lectern before being seated. (This is why you should sit at the front of the room.)
Pay attention to the time. You are responsible for beginning and ending the meeting on time. You may have to adjust the schedule during the meeting to accomplish this. Make sure each meeting segment adheres to the schedule.
Introduce meeting roles and ask for descriptions: Grammarian/ Ah Counter, Timer, Greeter/ Vote Counter, and General Evaluator
Introduce prepared Speakers
At the conclusion of the speaking program, request the timer’s report and vote for the best Table Topics.
Briefly reintroduce the general evaluator.
While votes are being tallied, invite comments from guests and announcements (such as verification of next week’s program).
It is inevitable that someone assigned a role in the meeting will have a last-minute conflict and that role will be vacated. The Hot Seat is the person ready to fill any vacancy with little notice.