What to Expect in a Typical Toastmaster Meeting

The hardest part of any Toastmaster meeting, especially as a guest, is walking through the door.

Entering a room full of strangers, and taking the first step towards becoming a better speaker can be incredibly daunting.

What should you expect?

Well, the first thing I would say from my experience is a warm, friendly welcome. Someone is bound to meet you at the door in a friendly fashion and engage you in conversation. There may be slight variations across different cultures or styles, but more often than not the meeting will follow a similar pattern. Most, if not all, meetings follow an agenda.

The meeting is kept on track with allocated times for each speaker, which although may sound overly-formal at first, time keeping is an important skill to develop as a communicator. How many times have you been in a meeting and the speaker has overrun? It upsets the organiser and most certainly the delegates. Who wants to miss the coffee break, be late for lunch or even worse, late for getting home! Timing is key.

At every meeting a person called the Timekeeper will usually be sat at the back with a timing device and some colourful cards - green, amber and red - which they use to indicate to the speaker how long they have left before reaching their time limit.

At the front of the meeting is the Toastmaster, who steers and directs the meeting. They perform the introductions, link the different sections of the meeting together, and make everyone feel at ease.

The Toastmaster will also introduce other roles required for hosting a meeting. The Ah counter – this person listens out for distractive words such as err, um and so then reports back at the end of the meeting.

We may see the Grammarian. This role is to give us a word of the day and encourage us to use this in our speech giving us a wider vocabulary. We can also use this word in everyday life too!

In meetings across the world, I have seen a Joke Master – someone who lightens and livens up the start of the meeting. Another meeting had the Cake Master – this person brought cakes to be shared during the meeting, what a great role!

The Toastmaster will commence the meeting and introduce each role, encouraging them to step out to the front and speak about the task at hand. You might see the Toastmaster shake hands with each speaker as they enter and leave the stage. Don’t worry, it’s not some kind of clique or secret organisation. This is the signal that passes control of the stage to the next person. It also helps to calm the speaker’s nerves and makes them feel more relaxed.

The Toastmaster will then introduce some 'formal' speeches. The members of the club are working through various projects to gain awards and qualifications, so they will deliver a speech of their choice, usually 5 to 7 minutes long. Sometimes there may be an Educational speech where an experienced member delivers a session to help members or the club learn and improve across a range of topics.

Usually there is a break halfway through where we can share the cakes, biscuits, and coffee but most importantly it’s a chance to relax, network and get to know each other better.

After the break we then enjoy some impromptu speaking. This part of the meeting is led by the Table Topics Master and they will ask members of the audience to step up and speak about a topic on the spot. It’s a great way to speak for a short amount of time, and also practice your improvisation skills, which are just as important as your speech preparation skills.

What more can you expect at a Toastmaster meeting?

Well, the next section is normally devoted to evaluations, which is probably the most important part of the meeting. An Evaluator is a member who has listened to a speaker and then gives their opinion of what they did well, and where they can improve. A great evaluator gives positive, constructive feedback and we never use the C word – Criticism! We are not here to criticise, we are here to help each other improve and gain more confidence in our speaking ability. Feedback will also also be given by the Ah counter and the Grammarian, while some clubs have a General Evaluator who assesses the entire meeting.

The next time you visit a town or city anywhere in the world, search the Toastmasters International website and see if there is a club near you. Then go and visit as a guest – you won’t be disappointed!

For more information about Strictly Speaking Harrogate Toastmasters, contact us today!

Phil Heath

Treasurer and Found Member of Strictly Speaking Harrogate Toastmasters

About Phil

Phil Heath – DTM As a trainer/consultant in International Standards, Phil visited many countries in the last few years. Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, every time he left the country there was a riot, a bombing, or an invasion! Phil joined Toastmasters in 2003 and has the honour of being a twice Distinguished Toastmaster. Before Phil became a professional speaker he was a trainer and sales consultant for many companies. As philthefunnel he now coaches organisations and individuals in the art of presentations with a focus on confident communication.

Phil Heath – Creating Confidence with Communication

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