The Toastmaster is the leader of the meeting. While providing continuity, he or she is the supportive presence that ensures everything runs smoothly, the team is well prepared and speakers get accurate, empowering introductions. Your energy, enthusiasm and engagement will shape and deliver a great meeting.
Being the Toastmaster is an honour – you get to introduce the speeches that your fellow members have been honing for weeks!
The skills developed here are easily transferable to leading meetings in both professional and personal contexts.
- Consider how you’d like the meeting to feel. How will you know if the meeting is a success? What were the characteristics of the meetings that you have enjoyed the most?
- You may wish to create a meeting theme: think seasonal, think colours, think out-of-this-world. Previous examples include favourite colours, films, holidays, inspiration. How will that theme work with the energy that you’d like to create?
- Contact your team (those members with meeting roles) to collect their responses and identify any information they would like to be introduced with. Be mindful of how much time you have available for the introductions and that we do not give business plugs during our meetings.
- If using a theme, let the President know as they may link to it in their introduction.
- If you have any special requests for your team members in fulfilling their roles, let them know ahead of time so they can take these into consideration during their preparation.
- Consider what information your audience will require from you during the meeting and when it is most beneficial for them to hear it. Here are some ideas for information that you might, or might not, choose to include:
- Mobile phone etiquette
- Fire safety procedures and emergency exits
- The location of bathrooms
- Avoiding the tearing of ballot slips whilst people are speaking
- Why we give feedback
- What the purpose of evaluation is
- Where to put feedback slips
- What else …?
- Ensure that you have all your meeting preparation ready as there will be little free time before the meeting starts. If you don’t get an answer to a theme e-mail, be prepared to use a generic introduction
- Agenda printing will be taken care of by the VPE but bring your own copy of the agenda – just in case of an emergency!
On the day
Before the meeting
- Arrive at 6:30a.m.! You are they key person to ensure that everything and everyone is in place for a great show.
- Confirm that all necessary equipment for use by the Speakers or the Workshop presenter has been set-up and that the room is prepared for the audience.
- By 7:00a.m. ensure that you have assessed the agenda to see that all participants have arrived. If a participant is missing, confer with the VPE on a suitable candidate to take on the role (if the VPE isn’t present, ask another experienced member for help if you require it). As Toastmaster, you are responsible for approaching the candidate to encourage or persuade them to take on that role.
- By 7:05a.m. you should have all participants accounted for, or with a substitute ready to step in.
- Latecomers may be allowed to keep their roles, for example, if the third evaluator were to arrive before the third speaker starts speaking. This is at your discretion.
- Advise members of your team of any changes that will affect their role. For example, the Table Topic Master will need to know of any substitute member taking on a role, so they avoid picking them for a Table Topic
- Warm your hands up – you will be leading all the clapping!
During the meeting
- Enjoy yourself; it’s your chance to the be the TV / Stage / Show presenter you always wanted to be!
- Make the role your own – bring your passion and personality to the meeting!
- Smile and maintain lots of eye contact.
- Be willing to engage with the audience and react to events at the meeting. Be present for your audience.
- Don’t worry if you get things out of sequence, there will be a helpful hint from the audience (probably your VPE or President).
- The meeting starts promptly at 7:10 and concludes at 8:45
- You and the Timekeeper have joint responsibility for ensuring the meeting runs on time so communicate clearly.
- The times marked in red on the agenda are key milestones – ensure you hit these if the meeting is to conclude on time. For example, if the guest introductions overrun, reduce the number of table topic speakers to hit the second milestone
- Keep your introductions succinct.
Introducing the meeting
- The President will give an opening address and hand over to you
- When formally receiving the stage, one would thank and acknowledge the person handing over to you by role – “Thank you Mr/Madam President …” followed by the formal Toastmasters address – “Fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests…”. The level of formality that you use will depend upon your style and the feel of the meeting that you wish to create.
- Introduce yourself, and outline the theme, if any, that you have chosen.
- Give an overview of the meeting ahead and upcoming opportunities to vote. The agenda and feedback slip might prove useful visual aids.
- Provide “housekeeping” and any other information that you’d like to impart. The Toastmaster’s introduction is the single longest segment that you get to speak for (it still needs to be succinct, however).
- Introduce your first team member (typically the Timekeeper) …
Handing over the stage
- Structure each introduction so that it ends with the member’s name; audiences know by convention that this is the point to applaud.
- Example: “Our next participant is our Linguist. When I asked him about his favourite colour, he said “green” because it reminded him of an Italian olive grove. Please welcome our Linguist, Tony Duff!”
- Lead the applause – make sure your hands are free to do this.
- Shake hands with the person taking over from you. When you shake hands, you are making a “gift” of the stage. Let the audience see the “gift” change hands.
- When leaving the stage, walk behind the person.
- When taking the stage back, anticipate when the speaker is about to conclude. Be on your feet to applaud, shake hands, and resume centre-stage.
- Inform the audience of the speech project and where they can read the full objectives; on the back of the agenda
- Example: “Our next speaker is delivering their Icebreaker speech from the Presentation Mastery pathway. When asked about her favourite colour, Hilary replied blue – for it is the colour of serenity! Delivering a speech entitled ‘Doing the Impossible’ – please welcome Hilary Briggs!”
- Some speeches might require you to set the scene for the speaker such as role plays or interpretive readings. This should be done within fair time limits.
- Remind the audience that you will ask them to provide feedback at the end of the speech
Requesting feedback for Speakers
- Encourage everyone in the audience to write feedback – the greater the feedback received, the more our speakers can grow!
- Remind audience of the suggested “Commend-Recommend-Commend” comment structure.
- Ask the audience to sign their feedback slips so the speaker can follow up on point or ask for clarification later.
- Ask the timekeeper to time 1 minute for feedback.
- Stand to one side of the stage while the audience is writing. This is one of the most difficult stage skills – standing still, arms to the side, looking interested and appearing interesting!
Calling for votes
- Votes are collected for: Best Table Topic, Best Speaker and Best Evaluator.
- In the event of only two prepared speeches, there is no vote for Best Speaker.
- The Workshop presenter is not included in the vote for Best Speaker.
- The Table Topics Evaluator and Linguist are included in the vote for Best Evaluator – don’t forget to mention them. The Interviewer is not included in the Best Evaluator vote.
- Your last appearance will be to hand over to the General Evaluator.
- You have a moment to share your thoughts and thank your team for their help.
- The General Evaluator should hand over to the President. Some visiting General Evaluators might expect to hand back to the Toastmaster, so be prepared to smooth a transition if that happens.