How do we do that?
If you’re in one of public speaking pathways, maybe you don’t expect leadership tasks in your track. If you’re in one of the leadership pathways, you may be wondering just when you’re going to get some actual leadership training.
I’ll let you into a secret – we’ve already started training you in leadership.
Leadership Training Starts with Meeting Roles
We’re giving you the foundation to leadership – how to be an effective public speaker. With every prepared speech you give, you’re building the skills you need to communicate with others – the absolute most important skill a leader needs. You can’t be a leader without it.
But we also invite you to take part of the meeting by taking on a meeting role. Did you know that was leadership training? We’re subtle that way.
Often new members are often encouraged to start with timer or grammarian or ah-counter roles. These roles get people familiar with the sequence of the club agenda and the other roles while inviting them to take a small speaking role at the end of the meeting. About half of the clubs I’ve attended have the grammarian, ah counter, and timer give their reports from their seats. The other half invites them to the front of the room. Club culture determines what’s going to be done – there’s no set requirement for these meeting roles.
If you’re a new member and haven’t been asked to take on one of these roles in the first month of your membership – speak up and ask for one. Sign up on the agenda – either a paper copy that the vice president of education passes around, or online.
Step 2 in Leadership Training: Evaluator Club Meeting Roles
Giving feedback on a prepared speech has been covered in our podcast episode 8. And episode 12. And episode 24. We take these evaluations seriously! It’s not just about helping each other become better speakers. It’s about developing the tools to give feedback to those you will lead.
Since I’ve already covered so much about evaluations in these previous episodes, let’s move on to the prepared speaker meeting role.
Step 3: Prepared Speaker Meeting Role
This does appear to be the most important part of the meeting. After all, in most clubs, there is a constant demand for a limited number of slots. So actually preparing a speech by writing it – however you choose to do that – and practicing it also builds leadership skills. As you learn how to get your message out there, you’re also learning how to assess your audience and how to use their reactions to build your call to action. You’re asking your audience to act – that’s what a leader does.
Step 4: Toastmaster of the Day, Table Topics Leader, and General Evaluator meeting roles
General Evaluator’s Role
The roles of General Evaluator and Toastmaster of the Day are often defined differently in clubs. Some clubs use the Toastmaster of the Day to run the entire meeting and the only role the General Evaluator gets is to give an overall evaluation of the meeting. In other clubs, and this is the more common option, that GE runs the evaluation section of the meeting, including calling on the grammarian, ah-counter, and timer. It’s like a baby step up to the big time meeting role of Toastmaster.
Toastmasters often take over the management of the meeting from an introduction by the president or the sergeant at arms (again, determined by the club.) It might include welcomes to visitors, announcements of changes to the agenda, or a brief introduction to the theme of the day. A joke of the day, an invocation, a pledge or a reading of the club mission statement – all of these may be parts of the Toastmaster’s role to call on people. But you know the most important task of the Toastmaster? To keep the meeting on time.
That’s a critical leadership skill. That’s why we have a timer and a strong emphasis on the agenda.
I’ve tried to move my clubs away from a printed agenda several times, citing the cost of printing and paper, or the waste. But in the end, I have to admit, the agenda is important real estate in the meeting. It gives the limits to the meeting, as well as provides the structure that makes a meeting go well.
It’s also very useful for the guests – most forms of the printed agenda include the club contact information and or the list of club officers. The agenda helps the guest know what to expect next.
Table Topics Leader or Table Topics Master
The last club meeting role to talk about: Table Topics Leader. This is also a leadership role because it involves calling on members or guests to participate in the activity. We call it volunteer and sometimes voluntold and sometimes voluncouraged. But it’s still taking the leadership role in the meeting where a leader would interact with multiple people. Controlling that flow – either by selecting from a field of options or by encouraging people to step up – guess what? That’s leadership.
Welcome to Leadership
Are you wondering if I’m nuts? How can taking on a club meeting role make anyone a leader?
Yep, I thought that too. Back in the day when we had the Competent Leadership Manual, most people never bothered opening it, which is one of the biggest changes in Toastmasters with the Pathway program. Leadership can’t be avoided now. You may want to skip meeting roles, and it looks like you can skip several of them now, when it was impossible to skip any of them under the Competent Leadership manual. We tracked meeting roles and had evaluators tell us how we did. We grew from the simplest tasks – being a Table Topics speaker – up to chairing a club event, such as a speech contest or an open house to recruit new members.
I kinda miss the CL manual. It did motivate me to try different tasks, even if I didn’t have any confidence that I could do it. Being Toastmaster of the Day for the first time was terrifying, but I survived and learned from it.
Now I could lead any meeting I need to because I know the basics of what a meeting leader needs to do and be in the meeting. I’ve learned leadership from club meeting roles -and you will too.
If you need help in any of these roles, please ask your mentor or the VPE. They can help you learn the tasks and find a mentor to demonstrate it to you. As you grow, you’ll pass that knowledge along to other new members in their turn.
That’s the strength of Toastmasters leadership – it’s where leaders are made – by each of us, in our turn, practicing our leadership skills.