Toastmaster of the Day looks like the most intimidating job at a Toastmasters meeting as it’s the role of the one running the meeting.
Trying to be an agent for order in a swirl of chaos – like a teacher in a swarm of students who are running for the door at the end of a long school day. Being a Toastmaster of the day doesn’t look easy.
Today, I have 3 tips for people who are nervous about taking on the role for the first time.
What is the Toastmaster of the Day?
Toastmaster of the day is one half ringmaster, one half taskmaster and one half gardener of your Toastmasters club.
Yes, that’s three halves – because this is a big role that takes several discrete skills to put them all together. What’s really compelling to me is how we’re terrified of the role – maybe rightly so – but also how easy it can be to do.
Putting it all together as Toastmaster of the Day
Different clubs have different traditions regarding this role.
- Are you expected to bring copies of the agenda?
- Do you make sure the agenda is filled or does the VP ed handle that?
- Will you fill the missing roles from the lectern or do you fill them before the meeting?
- Do you download the speaker introductions or do you expect them to be handed to you?
- And what about the theme?
Man, that sounds overwhelming!
But the fact is – most of those things are done normally in your club. It’s not like you’re working on piece of ground that has never been planted – you’re in a well-cultivated garden where the members know what needs to be done and how they’ve always done it.
Get to the next few meetings early and watch the interactions of the Toastmaster of the day and the vice president education. Sometimes the sergeant at arms is also a driver in getting the show on the road. When I was SAA – I helped fill empty slots on the agenda before the meeting began.
In an ideal world, the agenda is full the week before the meeting so the Toastmaster of the Day knows who the speakers are and can contact them regarding their introductions. In real life – this doesn’t happen enough. I’ve been in clubs where getting people to sign up for roles feels like pulling teeth and we’re filling in evaluator roles and grammarian at the last minute.
If you know you’re going to be Toastmaster of the Day in the future, you can try to manage this in anticipation. Ask people personally to sign up for roles. This is where a theme meeting might help inspire people to commit early.
Picking a Theme
I’ve never been a member of a club that consistently used themes for the meetings. I’m told that it’s a very important component of successful meetings for the clubs that use them. I’m not skeptical – I’m just unfamiliar with the concept. I have spoken in clubs where there was a theme – and had to struggle to adapt my speech to their theme without any warning… sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But themed meetings do help everyone get into the spirit and the fun. That’s important.
Clubs with problems with members – either a lack of membership or members who don’t sign up for roles – might find themes help build fun. At the very least, you can really dive deep and come up with the most atrocious puns you can create based on the theme. People love to moan at puns. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
When we think about it – themes do drive many of our most important personal events. We have birthdays, we have anniversaries, we have holidays which innately create themes. When I hear of speakers who don’t know what to talk about so they don’t write a speech – a theme may help them focus.
Does your club use themes? How do you see that work out in your club? Does the theme drive the prepared speeches – or does the speaker have the right to give a speech without regard to the theme? I imagine Table Topics would follow the theme. In my club meeting tomorrow night, we have the rare theme night of Toastoween – when we’re going to talk about the fear of public speaking. We have an almost full agenda – I’m still looking for a timer, if anyone wants to come by.
Starting the meeting on time may be out of the Toastmaster of the Day’s control, but the rest of the meeting is. There are a few tricks to this.
First, make sure you welcome guests and ask their name. If you have a full agenda, don’t ask them to give anything else now and let the club president acknowledge them again at the end of the meeting and ask for their comments.
In the US, most clubs start with the Pledge of Allegiance. Then there may be a thought of the day, a joke of the day, a word of the day. If you have a guest, be sure to explain the word of the day purpose if the grammarian or word of the day leader does not.
Honestly, those roles are very important – especially to new Toastmasters who are not yet comfortable getting up and giving a speech. This gives them time to stand and speak – so don’t skip them the way I frequently do. We once had a member who paid for 4 years of membership and didn’t speak at all – until he gave the Joke of the Day. In the next two years, he finished several levels in the classic program and served as an area director! Those first roles are important – don’t skip over them!
Keep an eye on the clock – and the timer. Make sure that person knows you’re expecting them to keep the meeting on time and give you and the other speakers a sign if you’re going too long.
The responsibility for time management of the meeting depends on all the members, not just the timer. The Toastmaster of the day must have a sense of the time left to be sure that everything can be done well. That may mean that the introduction to the meeting and the prepared speakers have to be adjusted.
Work with your timer and the Table Topics leader to make sure the prepared speakers don’t steal all the time from the meeting. Table Topics can expand or contract. You don’t always have to have everyone give a Table Topics presentation – picking a couple of members who don’t have another role in the meeting can be enough.
Most Toastmasters agendas have times on them for the roles. Watch those carefully.
Toastmaster of the Day and Speaker Introductions
Get those speech introductions as early as possible.
What looks hardest about the role of Toastmaster of the day is the responsibility to keep the meeting moving. In my experience, the difficulty increases exactly based on how few speaker introductions are available. It’s easy to keep things moving when you have a well-written introduction in your hands.
If I don’t have an introduction in hand, I tell the speaker that they’ve given me free rein to lie about them. And I do. Extravagantly. I believe I once introduced our club president as the man voted most likely to be gunned down by the police for robbing a bank. Don’t give me the opportunity to abuse my power, because… I will.
That could have gone very badly since all I knew about his speech was the speech project from the manual. Imagine if it had been a story about a horrible experience with the police? No no no – it’s much better to have a good introduction.
The default option
If you don’t have an introduction, you can default to the Toastmasters contest format: the speaker’s name, the name of the speech, the name of the speech, the speaker’s name. It’s safe – but it’s not as fun. Just sayin’.
One way to prepare for this is to email the speakers in advance with an introduction form for them to fill out and return. You don’t even have to use an attachment. Just put the form into the email and send it and set a deadline for it to come back to you at least a day before the meeting. Why?
Well, maybe you have access to your phone and cell service where you meet – or not. You do want to be able to read those introductions, whether you print them out or just download them to memory to read off your cell phone or tablet. I’ve learned not to trust my wifi connection in one of my meeting rooms – too much building above us in the basement. In the other, sometimes the wifi password isn’t available.
The transition from one speaker to another doesn’t need comment from the Toastmaster of the day. A simple thank you is enough and then going on to the next speaker introduction. It’s not the time to tell your own story! And I’m looking in the mirror when I say that! I forget that simple rule many times.
I promised 3 tips, but I have one more.
Transitions: Moving on to Table Topics
One of the Table Topics Leader’s jobs is to explain Table Topics to guests as is necessary. The Toastmaster of the day can say “Here’s our Table Topics Leader Todd who will explain how Table Topics works to our guests.” Then – shake hands and get off the stage. Let that leader shine and work with the members.
I think that it’s best if the Toastmaster of the day. does not participate in TT unless specifically called upon. This time is supposed to be for the other members to speak in the meeting.
This can be hard – especially if no one volunteers quickly. Be patient. The TT leader should call on someone and you can stay in your seat for now.
When Table Topics are done, you may have to ask for votes if the TT Leader forgot to call for them if your club votes on the best TT speaker. Some clubs do, some don’t. I know of at least one club that tried to eliminate the vote but it got voted down badly. Competition has value.
Introduce the General Evaluator – or not
The next task of the Toastmaster of the day is based on club tradition. In some clubs, the Toastmaster of the day introduces the General Evaluator, who then takes over the meeting for the evaluation portion. The General Evaluator will introduce each of the evaluators, the grammarian, the ah counter, the word of the day master and the timer.
Or not. Some clubs have the Toastmaster of the day. manage this portion of the meeting and the General Evaluator has a 2-3 minute speaking slot at the end of the meeting to give an evaluation of the flow of the meeting.
I prefer the first. This stepping stone leads to becoming Toastmaster of the day.. The other way isn’t wrong, it’s not my preference.
Finish the meeting
The Toastmaster of the day might finish up the meeting with announcements of the winner of the contests – Best Speaker, Best Table Topics Speaker, Best Evaluator – and then turns the meeting over to the club president.
If the General Evaluator runs the evaluation section of the meeting, the Toastmaster of the day role is just about completed except for the winners’ announcements. In some clubs, the president manages that. How do you know what you’re supposed to do?
Watch how your club does it. Spend a meeting or two working with the agenda. Watch how it’s done. You’ll discover that being Toastmaster of the day. isn’t really as hard as it looks.
Why do you want to be Toastmaster of the Day?
Because the challenge is worth it if you want to be a leader. You’ve got the stage – how are you going to use it? You might be comfortable in a situation where you’re in control of your message and Toastmaster of the day is as much about managing a bit of chaos as much as it is structuring the event to make people comfortable and give them the learning experience they seek in our Toastmasters meetings.
Be Toastmaster of the Day even if you’re not interested in being a leader. Understanding the role will make you more sympathetic and teach you how important it is as a prepared speaker to be able to adjust and go with the flow when things go wrong. Because they will and you’ll need the flexibility you learn from this role to cope with the problems when they crop up.
There’s no reason not to be a Toastmaster of the day and many reasons to do it. So sign up and do it!
Wrap it up, Kim
I hit a big podcaster milestone this week. I saw someone post a link to my podcast on Facebook – before I could! Thanks to Ron Williams for posting the link on Facebook in the Official Toastmasters International Members Group last week!
If you want to tell others about this podcast, we’d love for you to share our website Toastmasters 101 dot net or to tell people to go to our Facebook page Toastmasters 101 podcast. Thanks for sharing this production of Toastmasters District 10.
Our music today is from Incompetech.filmmusic.io.
Next week, the podcast may be a bit late, because I’m speaking in a different district! That will be exciting! I’m looking forward to meeting members of District 11 and sharing about how to market our Toastmasters clubs. If you’re going to be at the Fall Education Day this weekend (November 2, 2019) in Ft. Wayne, Indiana – come say hello! I’ll be the one in the hat.
Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.