Members learn and practice communication and leadership skills by assuming a variety of roles and each meeting role has an allotted time.
Careful attention to time helps ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak. While the meetings are structured, the goal is to keep meetings fast-paced, interesting, and fun, in line with the Toastmasters’ philosophy that “we learn best in moments of enjoyment.”
Meetings have two main segments:
- Prepared speeches and their evaluations. Typically, two members will present a prepared speech from the Toastmasters Pathways program to be evaluated by a fellow member.
- Table Topics and evaluations. Members, and guests if so desired, are asked to present a one-to-two-minute response to a question posted to them. The purpose of Table Topics is help us learn to think and speak on our feet.
The chair is the meeting’s director and host. You won’t usually be assigned this role until you are thoroughly familiar with the club and its procedures.
As the chair, you’ll introduce each speaker. Remember to keep the introductions between 30-60 seconds in length. You want to avoid awkward interruptions or gaps in meeting flow so plan some 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.
On meeting day, show up early to ensure all the roles are assigned on the agenda.
Begin the meeting with a welcome and introductions of members and guests. Part of the purpose of the introductions is to help the members get to know each other, so consider asking a question to be answered when people say their names.
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 by taking time from the Table Topics section. Make sure each meeting segment adheres to the schedule.
The chair exchanges handshakes with those arriving at and leaving
the front. This is done to show when control passes from the chair to the speaker and vice versa.
You will lead the applause before and after every speaker. We applaud to show support and welcome to all of the speakers.
After guest comments, check to see if there are announcements to be made, and then adjourn the meeting.
Serving as chair is an excellent way to practice many valuable skills as you strive to make the meeting one of the club’s best. Preparation is key to your success.
Speaking and leadership skills are improved with the help of evaluations. At some point, everyone is asked to participate by providing an evaluation. You will provide both verbal and written evaluations for speakers using the guide in the manual. Your objective is to give the speaker practical and encouraging feedback. At Vancore we use the sandwich method: give praise, then suggestions for improvement, and end with something positive the speaker did.
Study the speech objectives as well as the evaluation guide. By actively listening, providing reinforcement for their strengths and gently offering useful advice, you will motivate members to work hard and improve. When you show the way to improvement, you’ve opened the door to strengthening everyone’s abilities.
Record your impressions on the evaluation sheet, along with your answers to the evaluation questions. Be as objective as possible. Remember that good evaluations may give new inspiration 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.
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 to remain ignorant of a serious fault: if it is personal, write it but don’t mention it aloud. Give the speaker deserved praise and tactful suggestions in the manner you would like to receive them.
After the meeting, send the completed evaluation sheet 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.
Table Topics Master
The table topics master challenges each member with a subject, and the speaker responds with a two minute impromptu speech.
Some people underestimate the importance of the table topics master role. Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to practice planning, preparation, organization, time management and facilitation skills, but your preparation and topic selection help train members to quickly organize and express their thoughts in an impromptu setting.
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.
Let visitors know they are free to decline if they feel uncomfortable participating at this time.
Remember, too, that your job is to give others a chance to speak, so keep your own comments short.
When the chair introduces you, walk to the lectern and assume control of the meeting. Briefly state the purpose of table topics, mention any theme and review the timing and timing devices.
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. State your subject or question briefly, and then call on a respondent. Avoid reading their question while they are standing at the front with you.
Invite visitors and guests to participate after they have seen one or two members’ responses.
Watch your time. You may need to adjust the number of questions so your segment ends on time. The chair will let you know when to end.
Table Topics Evaluator
Your job is to give each table topics speaker a mini-evaluation. Use the sandwich method: praise, then suggestions for improvement and finally end on a positive, encouraging note. Keep it brief.
Each speech has a different time allotment. The timer records the times of everyone who speaks at the meetings with the exception of the chair and the Table Topics Master. You will raise the green, yellow and red flags at fixed times during speeches. These will be given to you before speakers give their speeches. Hold up each flag until you are sure the speaker has seen them. The timer will report all of the times during the reports section of the agenda. You will give the report from your seat.
The grammarian counts and records “filler words” that people use such as um, er, y’know, ah, anyway, like, so and watches for good or bad grammar and vocabulary usage. You will report the word counts during the reports section of the agenda, and give the report from your seat.
There are two ways to give a general evaluation. The first is to evaluate every role which has not yet been evaluated: the chair, speech evaluators, and the table topics evaluator. Remember that every evaluation should be brief and complete. Phrase your evaluation so it is helpful, encouraging and motivates club members to implement the suggestions.
The second way is to evaluate the overall tone of the meeting: what was done well and what could be improved? Was the meeting upbeat?
Being general evaluator is integral to the success of every single club member. People join Toastmasters because they have a goal – they want to learn something. If the learning environment isn’t focused and fun, members won’t learn what they joined to learn. Your observations and suggestions help ensure the 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!
We meet Wednesdays from 3:30 – 4:45 pm on the 8th floor of 889 West Pender Street. The location is at the corner of West Pender Street and Hornby Street, close to transit.
Guests are always welcome. Email our VP Membership for more information including location changes.