The hardest part of any Toastmaster meeting especially as a guest is….
walking through the door.
Nervous, nerve wracking? You’ve heard about this strange organisation called… Toastmasters and your friend, Boss, relation told you to give it a try.
What to 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 different cultures or styles but more often than not the meeting will follow a similar pattern …
The Toastmaster meeting
Most, if not all, meetings follow an agenda. This is the structure of the meeting, usually with timings
so everyone knows who is on next and how long they should be speaking for. Mmm you might think, not sure I want to be in a meeting that is so formal. But wait… why do we time things?
It’s a discipline that we should all buy into as a speaker. 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 important and you will see at every meeting a person called the Timekeeper. They will usually be sat at the back with a timing device and some cards Green, Amber, Red to indicate to the speaker how long they have left to speak.
The meeting roles
At the front of the meeting is the Toastmaster They are the person who is controlling the meeting. Performing the introductions, linking the different sections of the meeting, and making everyone feel at ease.
The Toastmaster may also introduce other roles during the 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 the above people to step out to the front and speak about their role. You might see the toastmaster shake hands or perform some little ritual as the speaker steps forward. 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 speaker. It also helps to calm the speaker nerves and makes them feel more relaxed.
The Toastmaster may then introduce some ‘formal’ speeches. The members of the club are working though 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.
Usually there is a break 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 can then enjoy some impromptu speaking. One member has volunteered to be the Table Topics Master and they will ask members of the audience to step up and speak about a topic. This could be anything that the TTM has decided.
The speaker is invited to the front and has between 1 minute and 2½ minutes to deliver a mini speech.
This is usually termed the ‘fun’ part of the evening! As a visitor you might be a little overwhelmed but don’t worry. The members will help you through and it is a great chance to learn a new skill.
What to expect from a meeting
What more can you expect at a Toastmaster meeting? Well, the next section is normally devoted to Evaluations.
This is probably the most important part of the meeting. An evaluator is a member who has listened to the speaker and then gives their opinion of what the speaker did will and possibly 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. Help each other improve and gain more confidence in our speaking ability. Feedback can also be given by the Ah counter; the Grammarian and some clubs have a General Evaluator. A member who gives feedback on everything else that has not been evaluated. The next time you visit a town or city anywhere in the world either as a member or a guest search the Toastmasters International website and see if there is a club near you.
Then go and visit – you won’t be disappointed.