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What does the Timekeeper do?

The main purpose of the Timekeeper role is to help the meeting run on schedule by timing each of the participants according to the timings given on the agenda.

The main responsibilities of the Timekeeper are:

  • To explain the purpose of the Timekeeper role during the meeting
  • To time each participant and operate the green, amber and red “traffic lights” to help them keep to time
  • To provide timing reports when prompted by the Toastmaster
Why not print our pre-formatted Timekeeper’s Record Form (PDF)?

Prior to the meeting

Shadow the role

Sit next to the Timekeeper during a regular meeting and observe what they do, making notes if necessary.

Practice your introduction

In your introduction, you will be required to explain the timing rules for the benefits of guests and new members.

There is a mandatory structure to follow (see below) but there is also an opportunity to say a few words of your own.

It is advised to prepare and practice your introduction in advance.

Some Timekeepers will introduce the role using a time-related quote, or give a personal example relating to good or bad timekeeping.

Check out our Example Timekeeper’s Introduction.

Upon arrival at the meeting

Practice with the lights and timer

Get the timing equipment from the Sergeant at Arms and test that all three lights and the stopwatch are in good working order.

If the meeting is not being held at the normal venue, it is often necessary to use coloured cards instead of the lights. Hold each card up clearly and make sure the speaker has seen it before lowering it.

Make sure you have a copy of the Timing Matrix. (Alternatively, you can record times on a copy of the agenda).

Get a copy of the agenda

Get the latest copy of the agenda from the Toastmaster and check with him or her for any last minute changes.

Find a volunteer to demonstrate the lights

Find someone who is willing to operate the timing equipment during your introduction. They will act as stand-in timekeeper during your introduction and also help you to demonstrate the lights.

During the meeting

Introduce the role of Timekeeper

You will be introduced by the Toastmaster. Shake his or her hand and then give your introduction – there are two mandatory parts.

First, explain the purpose of the role, making sure to include the following information:

  • An important part of Toastmasters training is to learn to express a thought within a specific amount of time
  • You will be timing every part of the meeting
  • You will report on how long people speak for

Second, with reference to the printed agenda, explain how the numbers and coloured lights relate to the time range allocated to each speaker. Arrange for someone to demonstrate the lights. Explain the use of the gavel if any speaker is still speaking 30 seconds past the red light.

Optionally, before handing back to the Toastmaster, you may have time to add a few words of your own about the value of the role or the importance of timekeeping in general.

Check out our Example Timekeeper’s Introduction.

Time the speakers

Time the speakers as follows:

  • Reset the stopwatch before each speaker starts
  • Press start at the speaker’s first (verbal or non-verbal) communication with the audience
  • Press stop when the speaker hands back to the Toastmaster
  • Record the time in the matrix against the speaker’s name

What to time

During the first half of the meeting, time the President, the Toastmaster, the Grammarian/Harkmaster, each of the speakers and the one minute provided for completion of ‘Comments slips’ following each speaker.

After the speakers have finished, give timing reports by stating the name of the speaker and their speech title followed by their speech duration to remind the audience of who spoke before the voting, for example:

Our third speaker was Joe Bloggs with a speech entitled “My Family and Other Animals”. Joe spoke for six minutes and 26 seconds.”

In the second half of the meeting, time the evaluators, the Topicsmaster and each Topics speaker.

After the last Topics Speaker has finished, provide timing reports for each of the Topics speakers, stating their name, their topic and the speech duration.

Then time the Table Topics Evaluator.

Finally, provide timing reports for all of the evaluators (speech evaluators plus topics evaluator) before handing back to the Toastmaster for the last time.