Guide to Meeting Assignments

A Toastmasters’ meeting is a professional meeting. We have a set agenda for each meeting, with a variety of roles and assignments allocated to members in advance. Some roles are required in every meeting, such as the Chairman or Table Topics Master; other roles appear sporadically from meeting to meeting in order to provide variety, like those found under Short Assignments.

Things to remember for all assignments:

  • Be prepared
  • Keep to time
  • If you know you are next on the agenda, be up and ready to speak

People join a Toastmasters club to improve their speaking and leadership skills, and these skills are improved through evaluations.

After every Prepared Speech and for each Table Topic the Speaker receives an Evaluation.

Your evaluation is an opportunity to practice your such leadership skills, such as, listening, critical thinking, feedback and motivation. When evaluating a speaker, your purpose is to help the speaker become less self-conscious and a better speaker. When evaluating a leader, your purpose is to help the leader become confident and more effective and able to lead a team to achieve goals. You should be aware of the member’s skill level, habits, and mannerisms, as well as his or her progress to date. Your overall evaluation should be encouraging and motivate the speaker or leader to improve.

Prior to the meeting:

  • Review carefully Effective Evaluation (linked below).
  • Talk with the speaker or leader to find out which manual project he or she 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 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.

At the meeting:

  • When you enter the meeting room, look for the speaker or leader and get his or her manual.
  • Ask the speaker if he or she has any specific things for you to watch for.

During the meeting:

  • 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 leave the speaker or leader with specific methods for improving.
  • If giving a verbal evaluation, when introduced, stand and give your evaluation. Begin and end your evaluation with a note of encouragement or praise. 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.
  • Praise a successful speech or leadership assignment and specifically tell why 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 humour. Don’t allow the speaker or leader to remain ignorant of a serious fault: if is personal, write it but don’t mention it aloud. Give the speaker or leader the deserved praise and tactful suggestions in the manner you would like to receive them.

Image result for toastmaster evaluator

After the meeting:

  • Return the manual to the speaker or leader. Add verbal word of encouragement that wasn’t mentioned in the verbal evaluation.

How to give Effective Evaluations:

Effective Evaluations Manual

Forms:

Individual Speech Evaluation form
Effective Speech Evaluation Tips

How this role helps you:

  • This role will help you to enhance your listening skills.
  • You will practice making accurate evaluations. No time for indecisiveness.
  • You will practice in delivering a mini speech.
  • You will feel more confident about entering evaluation contests.

The Guest Welcomer’s role is to welcome everyone to the club meeting, particularly visiting dignitaries and people who are new to Toastmasters. Making everyone feels welcome at our club is important, as this may be the start of their Toastmasters journey.

How to prepare:

Download and print a copy of the Club Sign-in Sheet to use on the night, should the Club Sign-in Book not be available on the night.

Before the meeting begins:

Arrive in plenty of time before the meeting, preferably around 6.45pm.  As guests arrive:

  • Introduce yourself to each visitor and find out  their names and background.
  • Give them a Guest’s name badge
  • Ask them to sign the Club Sign-in Book, explaining that we will add their email address to our guest list so that they can receive notices of future meetings.
    • Do not be afraid to check the correct spelling and pronunciation of people’s names. They will appreciate the care you take.
  • Explain what is going to happen during the meeting and ensure that they have an agenda.  In particular, mention:
    • No one has to speak if they do not want to, but at the beginning of the meeting everyone will be invited to stand up and introduce themselves
    • At the end of the meeting they will have the opportunity they will be asked to stand up and say what they thought of the meeting. If they do not want to do this, notify the Table Topics Master.
  • Show them to a seat
  • Ask another member to sit beside them so that they can explain what is happening as the meeting progresses.
  • Ensure they have:
    • a pen and paper

During the meeting:

  • Observe protocol by introducing special guests first, then general visitors.
  • If there are visiting Toastmasters, mention their club, level and office (CC, ACB, President etc).
  • As you introduce each guest, ask the person to stand and then lead the applause.
  • If you make reference to a person’s occupation, be certain you have the correct title of his status, position, etc.
  • Sit near the door and be prepared to welcome and introduce latecomers at any stage.
  • After the introductions, conclude with a short but enthusiastic welcome, then hand back to  the Chairman
  • At the break, hand your Club Sign-in Sheet to the Chairman, who will call on the visitors at the end of the meeting to offer comments

At the end of the meeting:

  • Check in with the guest and ask if they need anything or need additional information. Direct them to other members if they ask a question to which you do not have the answer.
  • Ask them if they would like a membership form, if appropriate

The joke should last about 1-2 minutes. If possible, try to tailor your toast or joke towards the theme of the meeting.

The Joke sets a fun tone for the meeting.

Prior to the meeting:

  • Prepare a joke to deliver when you are called on during the meeting.
  • Time yourself to make sure it is 1-2 minutes or less.
  • Avoid the same controversial topic areas that you would avoid for a speech.
  • Since it is only 1-2 minutes, this is a good opportunity to memorise the joke, so you can concentrate on delivery and timing, critical components to maximise the effect of your humour. Remember to use pauses and pacing effectively.
  • Test your joke out on a friend or family member before doing it in the meeting.

During the meeting:

  • When called upon by the Chairman, deliver your joke.
  • Pause after the punchline to support, enhance, and receive any laughter the joke may have generated before sitting down.

If you are having trouble finding some jokes to tell at the meeting, you can find some jokes you can use on the Jokes Galore! page.

A major portion of each meeting is centred around three or more speakers. Their speeches are prepared based on assignments in the Competent Communication or Advanced Communication Series manuals.

Preparation is essential to success when you are the speaker.

Prior to the meeting:

  • Check the meeting schedule to found out when you are scheduled to speak. In order to get the most benefits from the program, prepare a speech based on a manual project. Present the speeches in numerical order because each project builds on the skills learned in previous projects.
  • Before the meeting, speak to your speech evaluator about the manual speech you will be giving. Discuss with the evaluator your speech goals and personal concerns. Emphasize where you feel your speech ability needs strengthening. Remember to bring your manual to the meeting.

When you enter the room:

  • Arrive early. Check the projector, everything you need is in place. Protect yourself from all of the problems that could ruin your talk.
  • Sit near the front of the room for quick and easy access to the lectern.
  • Carefully plan your approach to the lectern and speech opening.
  • Be sure that you give your manual to your evaluator before the meeting starts.
  • If you don’t write down your own speech introduction, make certain that the Toastmaster of the meeting has prepared a good one for you.

During the meeting:

  • Give your full attention to the speakers at the lectern. Avoid studying your speech notes while someone else is speaking.
  • When introduced, smoothly leave your chair and walk to the lectern as planned.
  • As you begin your speech, acknowledge the Toastmaster and the audience (Toastmasters and guests.)
  • When finishing your speech, acknowledge the Toastmaster by shaking their hand, then return to your seat.
  • During the evaluation of your speech, listen intently for helpful hints that will assist in building better future talks. Pay attention to suggestions from other members.

After the meeting:

  • Get your manual from your evaluator. At this time discuss any questions you may have concerning your evaluation to clarify any misinterpretations.
  • Have the Vice President Education (or other current club officer if you are the vice president education) initial the Project Completion Record in the back of your manual.

Resources:

The Competent Communication Manual
Your Speaking Voice (Free PDF)
Gestures: Your Body Speaks (Free PDF)

Helpful videos to watch:

Gestures and Body Language
Great Icebreakers
Using Humour in Speeches
Knowing your Audience
Finding Speech Topics
Five Basic Public Speaking Tips
Rehearsal Tips for Great Speeches
Speaking Mistakes to Avoid

Return to the Online Guide to Meeting Assignments

Table Topics are impromptu speeches. The purpose of the Table Topics section is to help members think on their feet and speak on a given subject for between one and two minutes. It also allows speaking opportunities for those who are not programmed for other roles on the Agenda.

Purpose:

Table Topics consists of a series of questions posed by the Table Topics Master without prior warning to any of the participants. The session is aimed at procuring the best of thinking, listening and speaking from the participants, be they members or guests. It represents one of the most valuable, enjoyable and interesting aids to that end, and members always anticipate a stimulating session.
The session must be featured by enthusiasm, variety, interest and the presentation of an achievable challenge to each speaker.

Before the meeting:

  • Draw up a list of topics/questions. Ideas can be found in The Toastmaster magazine, national papers or websites. Do not repeat the previous meeting’s Table Topics ideas or items.
  • Select topics that will inspire the speakers and encourage them to give their opinions. Phrase them in such a way that the speaker clearly will know what you want them to talk about.
  • Keep your comments short. Your job is to give others a chance to speak, not to give a series of mini-talks yourself.
  • Get a copy of the Agenda, to help you select members who are not carrying out any speaking role. Only if time permits at the end of the Topics session should you call on participants already on the programme.
  • Find out if there is a theme of the meeting and, if so, prepare Topics in line with that theme.

During the meeting:

  • When introduced, briefly state the purpose of the table topics session.
  • Be certain everyone understands the maximum time they have for their response and how the timing lights/device works.
  • State the topic/question, then call on a member to answer. Doing it this way round holds everyone’s attention as they all think of a response should they be called on to speak. It also adds to the value of the impromptu element by giving everyone an opportunity to improve his or her ‘better listening and thinking’ skills.
  • Call on speakers at random. Avoid going around the room in the order in which people are sitting. Give each participant a different topic/question. Don’t ask two people the same thing, unless you ask each specifically to give the ‘pro’ or ‘con’ side.
  • Watch the total time you have available. Check the printed agenda for the total time allotted to Table Topics and adjust the number of Topics to end your segment on time. Even if your portion started late, try to end on time to avoid the total meeting running over time.

Stuck on Table Topics Ideas?

Taking on this role improves confidence and impromptu public speaking skills

Table Topics is a long-standing Toastmasters tradition intended to help members develop their ability to organize their thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic.

  • The Chairman will introduce the Table Topics Master, who will give a brief description of the Table Topics session and then call on respondents at random.
  • When asked to respond, stand next to your chair. Your response should last one to two minutes.

How to prepare for impromptu speaking

  • Read. You will be able to respond better if you’re knowledgeable about current events. Read major magazines and newspapers, and listen to newscasts.
  • Organise your thoughts. When you’re given your topic, pause to decide what the main point of your response will be. For example, if you’re asked to give your opinion about an issue, determine your viewpoint. Then support your viewpoint with two or three reasons.
  • Structure your thoughts. Like a prepared speech, an impromptu talk has an opening, body and conclusion.
  • Remain calm. Remember, your audience will think you are confident if you appear confident.

Resources

Video:

The Timer is responsible for timing items in the meeting, and signaling at appropriate points.

One of the skills in speech training is expressing oneself within a specific time. The Timer helps those at the meeting practise this.

On arrival at the meeting:

  • Make sure that the timing equipment is working properly. If it is not working, you can use the coloured cardboard cards.
  • Familiarise yourself with the timing requirements of the various speeches, and how to use the stopwatch.
  • Prepare an explanation of your role. Make it interesting – for example, google ‘time’ for a fascinating fact.

During the meeting:

  • Work the lights according to the instructions. Apart from Table Topics, the usual pattern involves green and orange warning lights as the time limit approaches, and the red light on the time limit. Once the red light goes on, it stays on until the speaker finishes. Sound the buzzer to signal 30 seconds overtime, but note that we do not buzz first-time Ice breakers.
  • Keep a record each participants name and the time taken.
  • When presenting a report at the end of the night, avoid reading out all the times on your list. You won’t have time! Make it an exception report, noting chief offenders or very good performers.
    • An exception to the above rule is that it is customary to read out the times of all prepared speeches.
  • If the meeting is running close to or overtime, make your report very concise to indicate your regard for time.
  • Hand back to the Chairman.

After the meeting:

  • Return the stopwatch and timing signal device to the Sergeant at Arms.

Timing software:

Android timing app for download – Speech Timer
Speech Timer for iPhone application – Speech Timer for Talks and Presentations

How this role helps you:

  • You will practice remaining alert and focused throughout the meeting.
  • You will deliver a well structured oral explanation and report to the members; thereby giving you practice in delivering 2 min speeches.

The tribute should last about 1-2 minutes. If possible, try to tailor your toast or joke towards the theme of the meeting.

The Tribute is a mini-speech with a definite structure to it – introduction, body and conclusion. The purpose of proposing a toast is to honour a person or persons, an institution or an event.

Try to avoid proposing a toast to controversial persons or subjects.

A toast is structured as follows:

  • Address the Chairperson and audience.
  • Introduction: Begin with an introductory sentence that lets audience know this is a tribute or honour.
  • Body: Mention a few reasons why you are toasting that person and what makes them worthy of a toast at this time. Invite the audience to fill and raise their glasses.  Then mention the name of the person you are toasting.
  • Finally, conclude by a short declaration to that person which members of the audience are expected to repeat after you, eg., “To Our Club!”

Keep your declaration down to 3 or 4 words so that audience can repeat it easily and in unison.

Example:  Mr./Mme. Chairperson, fellow Toastmasters and guests. Tonight I would like to pay tribute to our wonderful club. This Club has contributed to the personal growth of so many members.  Everyone has dedicated their time and energy towards mentoring, educating and ensuring that all our meetings run smoothly. Would you please raise your glasses and let us drink to the health of The XYZ Club!  To XYZ!

Watch a Toastmasters International video on how to do a toast/tribute:

The main duty of the Toastmaster is to act as a genial host and conduct the entire program, including introducing participants. If the Toastmaster does not perform the duties well, an entire meeting can end in failure. For obvious reasons this task is not usually assigned to a member until he or she is familiar with the club and its procedures. Program participants should be introduced in a way that excites the audience and motivates each member to listen. The Toastmaster creates an atmosphere of interest, expectation and receptivity.

Handing over the floor:

Whenever a speaker takes the floor to speak, whether it is a role player, speaker, evaluator etc., you should shake hands to hand over the floor to them, stand at the side until they begin to speak then sit down. When they finish, stand up, shake hands again, thank them and take back the floor.

Applause:

As Toastmaster, you must always lead the applause. If you do not begin to applaud, the audience will be half-hearted about it and that’s embarrassing for the speaker.

Prior to the meeting:

  • Organise food and drink to bring for supper.
  • Check with the vice president education to find out if a special theme has been set for the meeting and if there are any program changes.
  • Call all speakers in advance to remind them that they are speaking. Interview them to find out their speech title, manual project number, purpose to be achieved, time requested, and something interesting which you can use when introducing them (job, family, hobbies, education, why this topic for this audience, etc.).
  • Prepare introductions for each speaker. A proper introduction is important to the success of the speaker’s presentation.
  • Prepare remarks which can be used to bridge the gaps between program segments.
    You may never use them, but you should be prepared to avoid possibly awkward periods of silence.
  • Remember that performing as Toastmaster is one of the most valuable experiences in
    your club work. The assignment requires preparation in order to have a smoothly run meeting.
  • See below for ideas from “Information to Obtain to Introduce Speakers Effectively”.

At the meeting:

  • Arrive early in order to finish any last-minute details.
  • Check with the speakers for any last-minute changes.
  • Sit near the front of the room and have your speakers do likewise for quick and easy access to the lectern.

During the meeting:

  • Preside with sincerity, energy, and decisiveness. Take your audience on a pleasant journey and make them feel that all is going well.
  • Study the Agenda carefully so that you do not miss any Timekeepers Reports or invitations to vote.
  • Always lead the applause before and after each presenter.
  • After your introduction of another presenter, remain standing near the lectern until you have shaken hands – signifying your hand over of control of the meeting – then be seated.
    When another presenter has finished, shake hands again to signify that control of the meeting is returning to you.

Information to Obtain to Introduce Speakers Effectively:

Here are questions you may want to ask the speakers, either over the phone or via e-mail:
“I am doing the role of Toastmaster on (DATE) and I need some information about you so I can introduce you properly. Please take the time to answer these questions. Thanks for your help.”

  1. Why did you pick this topic?
  2. Is there anything specific you would like me to say to introduce this speech?

How this role helps you:

  • This role will help you to enhance your leadership and management skills.
  • This role will help you to enhance your time management skills.
  • You will practise speaking off the cuff throughout the evening.
  • You may have to deal with unexpected interruptions, hecklers or emergencies.
  • You will learn to keep calm, be diplomatic.

Before the meeting

Arrive about 15 minutes early

At the meeting

  • Arrange the room at least ten minutes before the meeting begins
  • Ensure there is water jugs and glasses available on the tables
  • Make sure the lectern is in place, the lights are set up, the banner is displayed, seats are arranged properly with comments slips and any voting slips on them
  • Make sure name badges are available
  • Greet members and guests and arrange for guests to sit with members
  • Ensure the meeting starts on time.
    • Bang the gavel and give a 1 minute warning for everyone take their seats.
    • On time, bang the gavel, welcome everyone to the meeting “Welcome members and guests to meeting number __ of Waitara Windbags Toastmasters Club. I hope you enjoy your time here tonight. I now hand the meeting over to the Toastmaster, ____”
  • Collect voting slips and count votes (if voting applies in your Club)

The Word Wizard role is a combination of the Ah Counter and the Grammarian.

When you give your report as Word Wizard, you are reporting on both the Ah Counter and Grammarian roles.

Ah Counter

The main duty of the Ah Counter is to note words and sounds used as a ‘crutch’ or pause filler by anyone who speaks during the meeting.

Words may be in appropriate interjections such as “and’, ‘but’, ‘so’, ‘well’, or ‘you know.’ Sounds may be ‘ah’, ‘er’, or ‘um.’ You should also note when a speaker repeats a word or phrase, such as ‘I’, ’I’ or ‘this means’, ‘this means,’ as well as restarts (when someone stops a sentence before completion and then restarts with a new thought).

Before the meeting:

  • Prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the Ah Counter for the benefit of guests.

During the meeting:

  • When introduced by the Toastmaster, explain the role of the Ah Counter.
  • Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone and keep track of all inappropriate filler sounds or words used by anyone who speaks during the meeting, including repeats and restarts. Be sure to write down the name of each person who speaks so you can give an accurate report of non-offenders.
  • Tally the counts for each speaker and the group as a whole.
  • Give a report when called upon by the Toastmaster, including the total count for the meeting and who did particularly well (you may also wish to mention any fillers that were used particularly heavily).

YouTube (Example)

Here’s a clip on how the role Ah Counter handled in an actual Toastmasters meeting. Notice that there are two variations and as the Ah Counter role is rather straight forward without much comments needed to be made, it’s preferable to keep your reporting short, brief and precise.

Grammarian

Being Grammarian is an exercise in improving your listening skills.
You have three basic responsibilities:

  1. to comment on the positive and negative uses of English during the meeting;
  2. to introduce a new word and explain the correct use of it;
  3. to count the use of ‘crutches’ such as ‘um’ and ‘err’. (Sometimes this role is performed by a separate Ah Counter.)

All of these are designed to help your fellow members improve their use of language.

Before the meeting:

  • Select a ‘Word of the Day’. It should be a word that will help members increase their vocabulary and one 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. If you know the theme for the meeting, use this to help you select your word.
  • In letters large enough to be seen from the back of the room, print your word on a sheet of paper that can be displayed. You can also include its part of speech (adjective, adverb, noun, etc.) and a brief definition.
  • Prepare a few sentences to explain the meaning of the word and how it is used.
  • Prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the Grammarian for the benefit of the guests.
  • Add the word of the day to the agenda on easy-Speak. (located under the venue on the left hand side of the screen)

Grammarian’s Introduction:

  • Explain the role of the Grammarian.
  • Announce your ‘Word of the Day’, state its part of speech, define it, use it in a sentence and encourage members to use it.
  • Display your sheet of paper with the word somewhere prominent so that it can be seen throughout the meeting.

During the meeting:

  • Listen to everyone’s word usage. Write down any particularly good uses of language and your reason for selection. Write down any awkward use or misuse of the language – for example: incomplete sentences, sentences that change direction in mid-stream, incorrect grammar etc. Note the speakers concerned.
  • Write down who used the ‘Word of the Day’ (or a derivative of it) and note those who used it correctly or incorrectly.
  • Count the number of times that each person speaking used ‘um’, ‘err’ or other crutches or pause fillers while speaking. Listen for words such as ‘and’, ‘well’, ‘but’, ‘so’ or ‘you know’. Make a note of which speaker use which particular fillers and how often.

Grammarian’s Report:

  • Report on what you thought was good and bad language usage and your reasons for selection.
  • Offer the correct usage in every instance where there was a misuse instead of only explaining what was wrong.
  • Announce who used the ‘Word of the Day’ (or a derivative of it) correctly or incorrectly.
  • Report on crutch or filler words.

Note: If you need to use the club’s data projector for an assignment, you will need to bring your own laptop computer with your file(s) on it. If you are part of the speaking program, let your Toastmaster know that you will need the projector. The Toastmaster will arrange with the Sergeant at Arms and ensure the projector is available and ready to use before your speech begins.

Alternatively, to arrange the projector for an assignment at our Thursday evening meeting you should give the Sergeant at Arms not less than 48 hours notice prior to the regular meeting start time, i.e. 6.30pm Tuesday is the latest you can order the projector for the following Thursday.