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What does the Toastmaster do?

The main purpose of the Toastmaster role is to act as the meeting’s genial host, introducing participants and making sure everything runs to time.

The main responsibilities of the Toastmaster are:

  • To give an introduction which sets the tone for the meeting
  • To explain the structure of a typical meeting for the benefit of guests and new members
  • To give short introductions for each of the main speakers and link between the various meeting segments

Prior to the meeting

Prepare your introduction

Although a very experienced Toastmaster can run a meeting “on the fly” in most cases it is recommended to prepare your introduction in advance.

Your introduction will follow any opening words from the club’s president and should create an atmosphere of interest, expectation and attentiveness.

As a general rule of thumb, the Toastmaster’s introduction will focus on the meeting at hand, whereas the President will cover more general topics relating to the club or Toastmasters as a whole, or news or events outside the meeting itself.

There is no rigid structure for the Toastmaster’s introduction – and you are encouraged to create an introduction in your own personal style – but be sure to include:

  • an overview of the basic meeting structure, i.e. Prepared Speeches, followed by Evaluations, and then Table Topics
  • a short discussion of the role of applause in a Toastmasters meeting to raise energy levels and to provide support and encouragement for participants
  • an explanation of the use of the feedback slips following each prepared speech including the suggested CRC structure, i.e. Commend, Recommend, Commend

Prepare speaker introductions

Contact each speaker prior to the meeting in order to gather information which may be used in your introduction before their speech.

In particular, make sure you know some basic information about their Toastmasters career, e.g. how long they have been a member.

You might also want to find out some particularly interesting piece of personal information such as an unusual achievement or hobby.

Some Toastmasters will ask each speaker (and the other functionaries) to answer a simple question – for example “What is the quality you most admire in other people?” – and include their answer in their speech introduction.

Make sure to include some complimentary words to build the speaker’s confidence. Also, it can be particularly effective to give your introduction a personal touch by saying something about the speaker from your own perspective.

Here’s an example introduction:

Our next speaker is Lucy Jones. Lucy has been with the club for nearly a year and I still clearly remember her Icebreaker speech, where she enthralled us all with her memories of growing up in Australia. Since then Lucy has entertained us with various stories of travel and adventure, all with her trademark humorous style. When I asked Lucy what super-power she’d like to have for a day, she said Invisibility – so she could sneak into her boss’s office and find out what he actually does all day! So, with a number five speech entitled “Throw Away Your Guidebook”, would you please welcome… Lucy Jones.

Upon arrival at the meeting

Update the meeting agenda

Obtain a copy of the meeting agenda and check with participants for any last-minute changes.

Update your own copy of the agenda with any changes, so that you can easily explain these to the audience during your introduction.

If there are unexpected absences, it is your responsibility to find replacements for vacant roles. For example, if a speech evaluator is absent, ask another member to take on this role.

Introduce yourself to the General Evaluator

Make the General Evaluator feel welcome and thank them for taking the time to visit the club. Remember, they are giving up their time to help our club.

Find out which club they belong and make sure you know how to pronounce their name correctly!

During the meeting

Give your introduction

When introduced by the President, shake his or her hand, then give your introduction, beginning with “Mr/Madam President, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests…”

After your introduction, point out any changes to the agenda.

Remind people to switch their mobile phones off, or at least switch them to silent.

Introduce the first functionary role – usually the Timekeeper – and lead the applause.

After the functionaries have completed their introductions, but before you introduce the first speaker, explain that each speech has a particular purpose and draw the audience’s attention to the objectives printed on the reverse of the agenda.

Introduce each speaker

For each speaker:

  • Give your personalised introduction
  • Lead the applause while they walk to the stage
  • Shake hands then sit down – usually somewhere in the front row

When the speaker hands back to you:

  • Shake their hand
  • Lead the applause
  • Thank the speaker and make a positive bridging comment, e.g. “Thank you Lucy. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a guidebook in quite the same way again!”
  • Ask the Timekeeper for one minute on the clock and prompt the audience to give the speaker feedback via the provided slips
While feedback slips are being collected for the final speaker, take the opportunity to remind all speakers to have their speech manuals completed by their respective evaluators.

Introduce other functionaries

Your introductions for other functionaries, such as Timekeeper, Harkmaster and Evaluators should be shorter than for the speakers.

Here’s an example introduction for an evaluator:

Evaluating Lucy’s number five speech, we have Sanjay Singh. When I asked Sanjay what super-power he’d like to have for a day, he said he’d like to be able to leap tall buildings. Why? Because it would make his commute to work much quicker! So, evaluating Lucy’s speech, please welcome… Sanjay!

When it comes to introducing the General Evaluator, remember that they have generously volunteered their time to help the club. Emphasise the importance of their role in your introduction and be sure to mention which club they belong to and invite audience members to visit.

Manage the voting process

After each of the Timekeeper’s timing reports – i.e. the prepared speeches report, the table topics report, and the evaluations report – ask the Timekeeper for one minute on the clock so that audience members may vote for best speaker, best table topic speaker and best evaluator respectively.

Make sure you have arranged for someone to collect voting slips. These should be given to the President for counting.

Announce the break

At the end of the first half, announce that there will be a short break for refreshments:

  • Say the length of the break (usually 5 or 10 minutes)
  • Reiterate by saying what time it is now, and what time they should return

At the start of the second half, remind audience members to turn their phones off again, in case they switched them on during the break.

After the last functionary report (usually Grammarian or Harkmaster) remind all functionaries to have their Competent Leadership manual completed by their mentor, or other club member.