What is a Toastmasters Meeting Like? Guide for First Timers.
If you’ve belonged to Toastmasters International for any length of time, you know the drill at club meetings.
You look forward to the familiar rhythm and flow of these events. You become practiced in fulfilling different meeting roles, and enjoy taking part in standard agenda items like Table Topics.
Joining other club members as an active participant at meetings gives you a warm glow and a sense of achievement.
But, if it’s your first time attending a Toastmasters meeting, you can be forgiven for finding the experience a bit of a whirlwind! There’s definitely a lot going on!
While no two clubs run their meetings exactly alike, there’s enough commonality. Here’s the run down on what typically happens at these weekly or bi-weekly gatherings.
What is a Toastmasters Meeting Like?
Welcoming set up
First off, the meeting room is generally arranged with a podium or lectern at one end and chairs set in a circle, often around a table. You’ll notice the club banner and club awards displayed prominently.
Some meeting room has a classroom setting, while others meet in a real auditorium with a stage and seats.
There’ll be a place just inside the door for members and visitors to pick up agendas. This is where visitors can sign a guest book and find some Toastmasters pamphlets.
Multitude of meeting roles
A look at the agenda shows the number different meeting roles – normally 10.
This allows as many Toastmasters members as possible to be active meeting participants, and practice the demands of each role in the process
Meetings are a regular opportunity for everyone to hone their speaking and leadership skills.
Setting the stage
The Sargent-At-Arms kicks off the meeting by calling everyone to order, recognizing any special guests – like the Area Director or someone else specifically invited.
As well, they welcome visitors who’ve come to see Toastmasters in action.
Before the meeting gets underway, the Sargent-At-Arms asks for any agenda changes. They also make sure all meeting roles are filled, and will be looking for volunteers if they aren’t!
If there’s a speech on the agenda, they make sure the speaker has someone to evaluate them.
Finally, the Sargent-At-Arms introduces the Toastmaster for the day, and hands the meeting over to them.
The real fun starts with the following roles and activities:
Toastmaster of the Day –
By far, this is the most important role. The Toastmaster is basically responsible for running the meeting – the host for the day, you could say.
They keep to the agenda and scheduled time for each item, and introduce each member with a meeting role as the event proceeds.
What you don’t see is what goes on behind the scenes for the Toastmaster.
In preparation for their role, they’re required to get the meeting agenda of time from the VP of Education and work closely with the General Evaluator to ensure anyone with a role at the meeting knows what’s expected.
The Toastmaster introduces each other member on the agenda and asks them to stand and complete their task, or explain their role.
For example, they may say:
“Charlie, you’re reading the Mission Statement today. Please stand and tell us the mission of Toastmasters.” or
“Sue, you’re the Grammarian for the day. Please stand and tell us about your role.”
The same formality is used when the Toastmaster introduces anyone giving a speech.
The speaker is mentioned by name and the title of their speech announced
In addition, information is given about how long they’ve been a member, what Pathways project the speech relates to and the specific speech objectives.
Being the Toastmaster requires familiarity with how meetings are run and confidence in one’s ability to fulfill their responsibility.
Mission Statement –
The member taking charged with explaining the mission of Toastmasters is the first one the Toastmaster calls upon.
The significance here is that it reminds all members what the club intends to achieve and sets the tone. The standard mission statement is:
“We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.”
However, it can certainly be related in one’s own words, and should be delivered without reading it.
This meeting role is often reserved for newer members to build their self-confidence.
The individual responsible for giving a toast asks everyone to stand and raise their glass − real or imagined – and join them in toasting something.
Ideally, it should be something related to the meeting theme.
While making a good toast is a special skill that everyone should have, this is also a role that someone new to the club can perform.
Do note that this doesn't happen in all clubs.
Next, the Toastmaster calls upon the Jokemaster to tell a joke.
Here’s another type of skill set. Delivering a punch line effectively − and not cracking up with laughter before you get there − takes some practice!
Do note that not all clubs have a Jokemaster.
When introduced, the Grammarian tells everyone that their role is to listen for incorrect uses of grammar, interesting phrases and improper pronunciations.
The Grammarian selects the word of the day and explains its meaning. They notice anyone using the word and lead all members in acknowledging this by wrapping the table or clapping.
Being a Grammarian requires paying close attention to everyone who speaks during the meeting.
In some countries, the grammarian is also called the Language Evaluator.
Ah Counter –
The next person called up to talk about their role is the Ah Counter. This is a unique one that requires the member to keep track of all what’s called ‘filler language’.
When mastering public speaking, many of us rely on favourite filler words such as “ah”, “um” and “you know”. This can be quite distracting to the listener.
The Ah Counter notes all such missteps to support members to become better speakers.
The Timer then describes their role to those in attendance.
As you might expect, they track how long it takes people to speak. What may surprise you is that this doesn’t just go for anyone giving a formal speech.
The Timer times everyone against the length of time on the agenda that’s provided for them to talk.
For instance, if the Ah Counter is given two minutes to explain their role, the Timer uses a stop watch to confirm how long they take.
Next, the Quizmaster gives an account of their role.
They’re responsible to come up with five or six questions to ask the members later on about what has been said during the meeting.
This is a way to test participants listening skills − another important communication component.
In some clubs, this role is called the Listening Master.
Showing your speaking savvy
Usually, there are one or more people giving a speech at a club meeting. Each Speaker is expected to arrive early to make sure everything is in order that they need, like any electronics or props etc.
Speakers also prepares a brief introduction about them and their speech for the Toastmaster to read. It should include instructions for the Timer to notify them when they have a few minutes left and again when they’ve reached their allotted time.
The Speaker must have asked someone to be their Speech Evaluator (or been assigned one) and made sure, before the meeting, that this member has the designated Toastmasters evaluation form needed.
Speaking off the cuff
Table Topics is another event at most meetings.
It’s the job of the Table Topics Master to encourage members to make an impromptu speech about a topic that they’ve come up with.
It could be that the meeting theme is Halloween and the Table Topics Master is asking people to give a two-minute speech about the best costume they’ve ever worn.
Table Topics helps members practice speaking coherently while getting to the point – in essence, giving a mini speech in the moment.
Time to assess
During the second half of the meeting, the Toastmaster hands things over to the Speech Evaluators who will give their feedback of the Speakers. This is where the learning happens in Toastmasters.
If there is one, the General Evaluator says a few words about how the meeting went.
The General Evaluator then calls upon the Grammarian, Ah Counter and Timer to give their reports and the Quizmaster to throw out questions to test how closely everyone paid attention.
The General Evaluator gives the podium back to the Toastmaster who calls upon anyone to give kudos to others and make any announcements.
There may or may not be an 'award ceremony' for the Best Speaker, Best Evaluator and Best Table Topic Speaker - depending on club culture. This is to reward speakers who put in the effort to prepare their speeches, and to encourage all to give their best.
At this point, visitors are thanked for coming and asked if they have any questions or comments.
The meeting ends with the Toastmaster asking the member assigned to offer an Inspirational thought, or a President's Closing Address.
Facts for first time visitors
Here are a few questions you might have:
- What else should I expect?
You’ll feel welcomed and may be invited to sit beside a member who can explain what’s going on during the meeting.
Expect to be invited to participate in Table Topics and asked if you have any questions at the end of the meeting. Rest assured, you don’t have to say anything.
- What are the benefits of joining?
The benefits are many. As you can see from the meeting roles, you’ll get gain a lot of different skills by volunteering for these – and, that’s just the beginning!
If you take on a club officer position, you'll be learning the skill of leadership.
- Is Toastmasters worth the cost?
Definitely! Toastmasters International dues of 45 USD twice a year, a 20 USD new member fee and low club fees is more than reasonable. Club fees are set by the different clubs. Some charge more because of venue rental and food, others may charge less.