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Roles Within The Meetings
More than any other functionaries, the Toastmaster is the 'glue' that holds the meeting together - and you can't run a good meeting without that cohesion. The Toastmaster introduces all of the speakers and evaluators.
Although it is possible to turn up and act as hosts for the evening without preparation, the meeting is enriched if the Toastmaster contact the various participants beforehand in order to prepare interesting and informative introductions. The secondary objective of contacting participants is to ensure that they are actually available.
In many ways, acting a host to the party is quite an easy task but we split the roles in order to ease the work of advance preparation.When you are at the meeting, DO take charge of your section, check that all participants are there and liaise with the EVP/President on any changes.Also ensure that you are working from the latest version of the programme and you should avoid the common problem of announcing people who are not present.
In a programme which often includes contributions from 20-30 people, the control of timing is extremely important. The Timekeeper's function is to provide timing signals to most of the participants and to report specifically on the timing performance of topics speakers, prepared speakers and evaluators. Using the LATEST published programme as a checklist, review the activities to be timed - all timings are printed down the right hand column in the form: 3/4/5 (which means Green light at 3/Amber at 4/Red at 5)
At the meeting: Arrive a few minutes early and familiarise yourself with the operation of the lights and the stopwatch - liaise with the Sergeant-at-Arms if you have any problems. Start operation of the timing lights when the President opens the meeting and for every subsequent function where timings are indicated. After your introduction by the Toastmaster, explain the role of the Timekeeper and include a demonstration of the lights.
Keep a running record of meeting progress and a specific record of the times for each table topics speaker.
When called upon by the Toastmaster read out the times for the table topics speakers and comment on any that seriously overran the target time. Comment also on lapses in the timing of the meeting including the start time, the overall timing of the topics session, etc. After the break, continue with the timings where indicated and specifically record the timings for each prepared speaker and evaluator.
Report on these when called upon by the Toastmaster (two reports) and also comment on overall timing performance as before.
Remember: Even the timekeeping role is a valuable speaking opportunity and it can be quite a challenge to bring some originality to it.
The Grammarian has three duties which, in order of priority, are: Firstly to report on interesting, unusual or effective uses of speech and also on any grammatical errors or 'inappropriate' use such as bad language.
Secondly, to set a 'word of the day' and report on it's use - Ideally a word that is not in everyday use, but avoiding the obscure or unpronounceable.
Thirdly, to report on hesitations (Um's and Ah's) where they distract from the speaker's message.
At The Meeting: After your introduction by the Toastmaster, explain the role of the Grammarian and announce the 'Word of the Day' giving it's meaning and some examples of it's use. - To assist the audience, write the 'Word of the day' on 3 pieces of paper which can be displayed around the room. Listen carefully to all of the speakers and report your findings when called upon by the Toastmaster towards the end of the meeting.
Notes and Tips: Although Grammarian is often seen as a minor role, it is a serious speaking opportunity which can make an important contribution to the meeting. Do not attempt to record all of the Um's and Ah's as this would take intense concentration and is rather less important than picking up effective uses of language.
Topics is the 'fun' section of a Toastmasters meeting where we all get to practice the art of impromptu speaking. So why do we hear so much talk about taking the 'fear' out of table topics? - the answer to that one is simple - don't ask people who don't want to do it. Ideally, the Topics Master should compile a list of willing topics speakers before the meeting and any additional participants should be asked rather than cajoled or pressured. Our attendances make it possible to support a topics session of 8-12 willing volunteers. The success of the topics session also depends on the choice of subject and experience shows that a good overall performance is achieved when the subject allows the speaker to speak from their own experience. If the topics also follow a common theme, this allows the less-experienced speakers some preparation time. Of course, some people will always prefer to set 'challenging' topics but these will inevitably produce an excellent performance from a few speakers while the rest flounder. In real-life situations for which we are presumably practising, is it ever likely that you will be asked to speak impromptu on a subject that you know nothing about?
The most difficult functionary role is undoubtedly that of the General Evaluator who needs to pay close attention to the meeting while simultaneously writing notes and organising a structured 10 minute analysis of events. Although the new meeting guidelines cover the role comprehensively, it is not really practical to comment on every aspect of the meeting in a general evaluation. An effective strategy, therefore, is to concentrate on one or two aspects of the meeting such as structure, timing, audience reaction, adherence to meeting guidelines, quality of evaluations or handling of guests.
Hopefully, this will give a fresh angle to each general evaluation rather than a simple recitation of what happened.
Also, General Evaluators should not be afraid to 'tell it like it is' as we learn nothing from an orgy of self-congratulation.
General evaluations are normally done by very experienced Toastmasters who must obviously set a good example of