A Toastmaster wears many hats

The life of a Toastmaster is shrouded in mystery. Whenever you mention that you are a Toastmaster people raise their eyebrows and say ‘Really?’ They automatically assume that you wear a red coat, carry a gavel, and make announcements at formal dinners.

In truth that’s not the case. A little history lesson here tells us that Toastmasters International started in the good old U. S. of A. It was started by a gentleman called Ralph C Smedley. and he set it up to help young men increase their speaking confidence assist them in finding jobs in the big wide world.

Since then, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon, growing to include over 345,000 people in more than 15,900 clubs across 142 countries. Not bad for a volunteer organisation or as some like to call it – their hobby.

The aim of Toastmasters International is to help people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators, and Leaders.
It’s this last element that I wanted to focus upon in this weblog.

What do we mean by Leader? Well, you and I know many leaders, The Prime Minister, the Corporate Directors who manage large companies, The Chairman of the local Parish Council.
All these people can be seen as leaders. But how did they get there? It’s often said of some individuals that he or she is a ‘Born Leader’ Is that really the case? Can we be born a leader? Probably not so we have to learn somewhere.
Here’s your chance to get the prize. Where could you learn the skills to become a leader in a safe, secure environment? Yes, that’s right – go to the top of the class! Toastmasters of course.

Welcome to the world of Toastmasters International
Lets start at the club level. When you walk through the door to attend a meeting you probably don’t think of all the hard work and organisation that has taken place to get the meeting up and running.
You may encounter various members as they greet you but when the meeting starts one person should stand out very clearly. The Toastmaster of the Meeting. In most meetings this is the person who manages the flow of the meeting, keeps the meeting on time and most importantly introduces everyone to the floor before they speak.

The Toastmaster role is very important, and you soon realise that even a simple introduction needs to be practiced looking good. It is vital that the Toastmaster knows who is next, gets their name correct and introduces them properly so the audience know what’s going on.

During the meeting other members will be introduced and asked to perform a short introduction to describe their role. Let’s look at some of the other roles that may occur in a meeting or that you may be asked to perform.

Timekeeper – probably one of the hardest jobs during the meeting. Keeping an eye on a timepiece of some sort, listening to the speaker, and jotting down the results is a real challenge for multi-tasking. The important part of the role is to ensure that you Keep an eye on the overall meeting time and liaise with the Toastmaster to make sure everything runs on time. If you hate meetings that overrun, then you realise how important this role is.

Next, we see the Grammarian. The point of this role is to introduce a ‘word of the Day’ to the meeting. A word that we can incorporate into our speeches or into our personal life to make our speaking more colourful and alive. In addition, the Grammarian keeps an ear out for interesting words or phrases used during the meeting and encourages us to use these ourselves to enhance our speaking.

Then we hear the Ah Counter. This role encourages active listening and entails helping us correct
the flaws in our speech such as um, err and the Harrogate ‘so’!
In real life these can be very distracting if we use them too many times and it is a useful discipline to try and remove them.

Leadership roles also include those such as the Table Topics Master or the General Evaluator. These are both important roles during the night as they involve taking over and managing a section of the meeting. As you can see, a Toastmaster can wear many hats but what about other Leadership roles? Behind each successful club there is an appointed Committee. Most club members are not usually interested in these roles, especially at first, as they just want to practice and learn speaking skills.

But what could you gain by taking on a Committee role?
First we have the President. A great role to have and I would always suggest that you serve on the committee in other roles first. This is the figurehead of the club – managing the committee. Creating a strategic plan. Driving forward the direction of the club to ensure that the club can meet its targets.

Why is this important?
Those clubs that meet their targets tend to have an engaged membership, fun meetings, members achieving their goals and most importantly making sure we have FUN.
If it’s not fun and enjoyable then people won’t come and take part. As you can see, the President can drive this and give it momentum.

Where does this fit in real life?
Think about your own place of work with more fun and enjoyment, strong Leadership, and clear goals. You will be more productive, and you’ll want to go to work. In fact, if you are that manager, people will want to work for you – a win-win.

Other roles on the committee can be related to your place of work or home life. Take the VPE – Vice President Education. Responsible for helping members work through the programme and achieve their goals -a supervisor position. Training and delivering programmes to ensure members get what they want out of their hobby.

Vice President Membership – bringing members in and introducing them to the club ensuring they know what to do and when. Mentoring and helping people both vital skills at home and work.

Vice President Public Relations – creating interest to draw members in through Social media,
websites and advertising. Vital skills in today’s job market and useful at home too!

Treasurer – looking after the money-making sure members pay their dues and also ensuring the club pays its way. Vital for home budgeting and managing the petty cash or more at work.
All these roles can give you skills which you can use outside of Toastmasters

It does not just stop at the Club either. You can gain other skills by taking on roles in the Area, the Division, and the District.

Next time your President asks for volunteers why not step up to the mark? Give it a chance and challenge yourself. After all the Hat that you wear in Toastmasters might be the route to an even bigger hat in the real world.
Go on give it a go!