Explanation of Duties

Please keep in mind that these descriptions are the "ideal," so be prepared and ready to reduce the duties of each to a manageable level. You should be able to perform your duties comfortably, so prioritize if you have to and cut down to the essentials.

You should also feel free to add a little something extra or try something new. Toastmasters is the place to be creative and experiment; if your experiment succeeds, good for you. If it doesn't turn out the way you had hoped, at least you learned something and no harm was done.

Meeting Roles and Responsibilities


Arrive at the meeting early.  Greet guests as they arrive.  Ensure that they sign in in our guest book, and emphasize we need all the information requested (name, address, phone number, email address, and who invited them).  Introduce them to a member and arrange for them to sit with one in case they have questions.  Make sure the toastmaster and presiding officer know who the guests are.  Check up on the guests during the break.  Encourage them to follow-up with the VPPR or VP Membership after the meeting.

Call to Order (Sgt at Arms)

This is usually done by the Sergeant at Arms. This call sets the tone for the meeting, so it should be lively and energetic. If possible, do something related to the theme. Get the meeting off to a good start, interacting with the audience if possible. Ask everyone to stand, then lead the pledge of allegiance to the flag, or select someone to lead the pledge, and then introduce the presiding officer. 

Presiding Officer

The presiding officer is the ranking club officer present. Usually this will be the president, but if he or she is not present, then the VP Education takes over, and so on down the hierarchy.

Before the Meeting

Note any guests; try to say hello and note their names.  Check with the greeter(s).

During the Meeting 

Follow the agenda. You will be speaking at the beginning and end of the meeting, including the business portion of the meeting at the beginning. Enlist a toastmaster for the following week as the first order of business.  Give any guests a chance to introduce themselves and to comment on the meeting at the end. Invite them to come back and to join the club if they seem at all interested.  At the end of the meeting, take note of any members who have not had a chance to speak. Give them the opportunity to do so; everyone should have a chance to speak at every meeting. That is why people join and keep coming back: practice.You have command of the gavel and overall responsibility for the meeting. If you have changes to suggest, negotiate them with the Toastmaster.


The Jokemaster not surprisingly delivers a joke to the group. This is good practice for speeches, because humor really can help to win over a crowd. Remember to keep the jokes tasteful and clean.


When You Are the Toastmaster, you will gain experience coordinating and running a business meeting or technical conference. This can be one of your most rewarding experiences in your club work. You are in charge! It is YOUR meeting. You can rearrange the agenda, try something different, etc. You may find that members are subject to unexpected commitments at the last minute, so you can adjust the meeting format in any way that meets the need. You can also assign tasks to any member present in order to fill all the jobs.

Prior to the meeting 

Reminders and introductions: Check with the Table Topics Master and agree on a Theme for the meeting so that may be used in developing the Table Topics. Contact each of the planned Speakers at least a few days in advance to remind them that they are scheduled to speak. Interview them to find out the title, manual project number, time requested, objectives of the speech and some background on them to make your introduction. Contact the General Evaluator and confirm their responsibilities. Ask the General Evaluator to contact all members of the Evaluation Team (Time, Speech Evaluators, Topics Master, Vote Counter, Ah Counter, Grammarian) and remind them of their responsibilities. Prepare introductions for each speaker, it is an important part of your role as TM. Prepare remarks to "fill the gaps" between program. Evaluators: Let evaluators know whom and which manual speech they will be evaluating. Also give this information to the General Evaluator. 

During the meeting 

Agenda: Pass out a printed meeting agenda. If a meeting participant does not arrive, assign someone else at the beginning of the meeting. Remember--you are in charge; if members are shy about volunteering, then ask individuals to do it, assigning the role to someone if needed.Introducing speakers: When introducing a speaker, mention the manual and speech #, speech objective, speech title and target duration. 

Shaking Hands: Whenever transferring the meeting to a speaker, evaluator, etc., hand the meeting off with a handshake. Allow the participant to pass in front of you (not behind you) as they take the floor. When they are done, they should return the meeting to you with a handshake, allowing you to pass in front of them. In other words, the person taking the floor moves to the front and is closest to the audience. This clarifies who is in charge at any given moment. 

Clapping: After making an introduction, you start the clapping and keep it up until the participant has reached the front of the room and has shaken your hand. Clapping is for welcoming and thanking the participant. You set the supportive tone! 

Time: Part of your job is making sure we start and finish on time. Ways to adjust the overall meeting time include limiting the number of Table Topics, asking the Table Topics Master, Grammarian, AH Counter, and General Evaluator to be brief, and abbreviating your own introductory remarks. 

Guests: If guests or new members are present, please briefly explain the purpose of each participant as part of their introduction. For example, "the purpose of the evaluator is to give the speaker immediate feedback and to give the evaluator training in critical listening and impromptu speaking."  

After the Meeting: 

Make sure that the Vice President Education knows who spoke during your meeting and which manual speeches they gave.


The primary purpose of the Grammarian is to teach us to listen! You do not need to be an expert--what you do need is the heightened awareness of language that comes from critically examining the use of language throughout a meeting. You have the opportunity to listen for (1) errors or awkwardness and (2) examples of excellence (e.g., well-stated metaphors, correct use of the Word of the Day, descriptive language). Try to offer the correct usage in every instance where there was a misuse instead of only explaining what was wrong. The scope of this job is up to you; you may confine your remarks to the prepared speakers or comment on everyone's use of language.

Before the meeting, bring a "Word of the Day" (any word you choose; you can check with the Toastmaster or Table Topics Master to see what the Theme of the meeting is, and pick something appropriate) along with a definition and an example in a sentence. During the Table Topics portion of the meeting make sure you note which of the Table Topics speakers use the word. Only they will be eligible for the best table topics award at the end of the meeting.


Before the Meeting

Find out the length of time for each of the speeches (they should be on the meeting agenda). Make sure you have the equipment: lights, a timer, a bell, and the timing sheet listing the length of time each functionary can use. 

During the Meeting

Time all functionaries and use the lights/bell to keep the meeting moving on time. Describe your duties when called upon by the Toastmaster. Your job is to keep the meeting running smoothly in a timely manner. Part of sharp communication skills is the ability to get one's message across succinctly. Explain the three lights: green means you have spoken for the minimum time; yellow, the optimum time, and red means you must wrap it up. If you speak for much longer (15-30 seconds) over the limit, then you will hear the bell, which means stop talking and sit down. 

Don't be shy about using the bell. If someone is taking too long, they are cutting into someone else's time, or causing the meeting to go over time. They also may not be aware of the time they are taking, and it is your job to help them to become more aware. Ring that thing! During Table Topics, contestants get the lights as follows: green (45 seconds); yellow (1 min); red (1 min 15 seconds); bell (1 min 20 seconds) 

Make sure you record which speakers qualified and which didn't. The Table Topics master will ask for your report. After each prepared speech, record the length of time each speaker took. The General Evaluator will ask you to report this.

Ah Counter

The Ah Counter is present to help cure the annoying habit of "vocalized pauses," ah, uh, mmm, "you know," and other "filler" words.  Note that "so," "like," and conjunctions are legitimate English words when used properly.  Excessive use of conjunctions, especially at the beginning of sentences, starting sentences with "so," and any use of "like" other than as a comparison are fillers.

Use the clicker each time you hear an infraction. The loud click may sound unfriendly and annoying, but it helps members become aware of their misuse of pauses. DO NOT USE THE CLICKER DURING PREPARED SPEECHES AND DO NOT CLICK GUESTS.

Before the Meeting

Pay attention to the names of all participants and write them down during a member’s introduction to aid you in your report
at the end of the evening.

During the meeting

Record the use of "ah" and other crutch words used by the members, and don't be afraid to use the clicker each time you hear one. Listen also for repeated words or run on sentences which overuse the word "and." When requested by the General Evaluator give a quick report. 

NOTE: Some newer members are especially sensitive to the clicker sound or use "um" 3 or 4 times in a sentence. For these people, use your best judgement. If the sound of the clicker obviously embarrasses them and stops them cold, or is overused, it becomes counter-productive. In these cases, use the clicker once for every 3 or 4 infractions or so. They'll still get the idea with the fewer clicks and not lose their train of thought. However, be sure to record each infraction in your count for your report.

Table Topics Master

Table Topics is the part of the meeting that allows unscheduled audience members to participate. Optimally, everyone present should have an opportunity to speak during a meeting. The Table Topics master prepares and issues the topics. Each speaker may be given an individual subject, or a choice of subjects may be presented from which the members can draw at random. Check with the Toastmaster ahead of time to discuss the meeting theme. Prepare topics around that theme.  

Here is your chance to be creative! You can have us rise to any challenge you care to present. Please remind the participants to practice "mini-speeches" that have an opening, body and conclusion. Remind the participants that Table Topics is simply an exercise in thinking on your feet -- it does not matter what you say -- what matters is that you stood in front of a group and spoke. Suggestion: you can have us focus on particular speaking skills, e.g., gestures, in order to use Table Topics as a skill-building workshop. Also remind participants that their goal is to speak until the green timing light comes on. 

Finally, they do not have to address the topic--going off on a tangent is fine as long as the result is a mini-speech with opening, body and conclusion. As Table Topics Master, you get to be flexible! We vary the number of Table Topics in order to ensure that the meeting ends on time. It is always a good idea to have a few extra ideas just in case -- try to think of six to eight (ten max) ideas.  

Maximum number of Table Topics: Everyone in the room who is not otherwise on the agenda speaks (this could be quite a number of people, say, up to ten if one of the speakers does not show up. The average number seems to be five). It is wonderful when everyone seated in the room has a chance to stand in front. 

Minimum number of Table Topics: About three. It's a good idea to end the Table Topics part of the meeting on time. You can ask the Toastmaster to tell you "just one more" or "just two more." The Toastmaster is keeping track of the time (and can ask the Grammarian and General Evaluator to be brief). You can also turn and ask the Toastmaster if there is time for one or two more while you are up front. Other things to think about:  - You can give more people an opportunity to participate if you keep your own remarks brief. You do not have to say very much when introducing each topic. -  State the topic twice, and then call on a person by name. That way, everyone has to think about what they might say if called upon. Go ahead and make everyone sweat!   

Try to decide whom to call on ahead of time. Look around the room before the meeting starts to figure out who is not already on the agenda. This way you don't make the mistake of calling on someone who is already on the agenda. If you are not sure of a name, ask the person. You may also ask guests if they want to participate. Also, if you can't call on everyone, try to pick the newest members first. 


Before the Meeting

Purchase food for the meeting. Usually these are light snacks, desserts, fruit, cookies, drinks.

During the Meeting

Set up the food you brought. Be gracious and engage in conversation with any guests or fellow members. Eat quickly as there is never enough time at the break before it is time for the prepared speeches.


Preparation is essential to success when you are the speaker. Every speech should be well-prepared and rehearsed to ensure quality. Remember, club members learn from one another's speeches. Every speaker is a role model. Before the Meeting Contact your evaluator ahead of time to inform him or her which manual speech you will be giving. Discuss your speech goals (both those in the manual and your personal goals) and any concerns you may have. Remember to bring your manual to the meeting so that your evaluator can fill in the Evaluation Guide for your speech. Give the Toastmaster of the Day an introduction, including the following information:

  • Name of manual, speech number, speech name.

  • Speech title.
  • Requested time.
  • Formal speech objectives.
  • Your personal speech objectives.
  • Anything else you want your audience to know.

Get in the habit of writing your own introduction. This is a useful thing to do for any conference or meeting you attend at work or on the outside in which you will be introduced by someone else.  

Example 1: Today Molly Brown will be giving manual speech #3, "Organize Your Speech." The time is 5-7 minutes and her title is "Backpacking in the Hetch Hetchy Valley." The objectives are (1) organize your thoughts into a logical sequence and (2) have a clear opening, body and conclusion. Molly would also like you to check for nervous mannerisms and whether she establishes eye ontact with the entire room.  

Example 2: Today Molly Brown will be giving Speech #1, "The Technical Briefing," from the Advanced Manual on Technical Presentations. The title is "Clean Water--What Happens When You Turn On the Tap?" and the time is 8-10 minutes. The objectives are (1) using a systematic approach, organize technical material into a concise presentation and (2) tailor the presentation to the audience's needs, interests, and knowledge levels. Molly will be giving this speech to an audience of high school girls interested in environmental engineering. Please pretend you are a high school science class and judge Molly's content based on that knowledge level. Molly would also like to know whether she engages your enthusiasm and interest, and how to do this better for high school students. 

During the meeting

Arrive early to make sure the room and any equipment you will be using are ready. Take a seat near the front of the room. Before the meeting starts, give your manual to your evaluator. After you are introduced, take control of the meeting by shaking hands with the Toastmaster of the Day. As you begin your speech, acknowledge the Toastmaster and the audience. Plan your speech closing as carefully as your opening; it's the finishing touch that will bring on the applause. Wait for the Toastmaster of the Day at the lectern, shake hands to return control of the meeting, and return to your seat. During the evaluation of your speech, listen intently for helpful hints that will assist in building better future talks.

After the Meeting

Get your manual from your evaluator, and discuss any questions you may have concerning your evaluation. Have the Vice President Education (or the senior officer present) initial the Record of Assignments in the back of your manual.


As evaluator, you will give an oral evaluation of a speech during the meeting and a written evaluation in the speaker's manual. The purpose of the evaluation is to help the speaker become less self-conscious. This requires that you become fully aware of the speaker's skill level, habits and mannerisms as well as his or her progress to date. If there is a technique the speaker uses or some gesture made that receives a good response from the audience, tell the speaker so he or she will be encouraged to use it again.

Prior to the meeting

Interview the speaker to find out which manual project she or he will be presenting. Discuss the speaker's goals. Study the objectives of the project and the evaluation guide in the manual. Good preparation will allow you to give a more effective evaluation. Review the Effective Speech Evaluation manual.

During the meeting

Get the speaker's manual so that you can fill out the Evaluation Guide. Here are some key points from the Art of Effective Evaluation Workshop, one of a series of Leadership Workshops made available to us through Toastmasters International. Evaluations are the key to how we improve as speakers. Feedback lets us know how we are improving and gives us ideas for changing our behavior. Each speech iterates this cycle.  The evaluator has three roles. 

Motivator. Fuel the speaker's desire for improvement. Encourage and inspire the speaker. 

Facilitator. Show the speaker how to improve. (Give constructive criticism: suggest alternatives to areas that you think could be tried differently next time. It is safest to use "I" language when doing this. For example, "I found the noise your pen was making as you were clicking it throughout the speech distracting. You could try keeping your pen in your lapel pocket or placing it on the lectern while you are speaking. "This kind of criticism is easier to accept than "Everyone thought the pen noise was terribly distracting "Did you poll everyone in the room? How would you know?) 

Counselor. When evaluating someone who fears speaking, do whatever it takes to get that person back for his or her next speech! Self-esteem is the key to personal growth. Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. We all need affirmation that we are doing well every time we try a new activity (such as public speaking). The Toastmasters program should build and protect self-esteem. Evaluators should be genuine, recognize strengths, recognize improvement, motivate, avoid value judgments, provide positive direction/suggestions, and avoid white-washing.

Ten behaviors of an effective evaluator are: 

1. Show that you care. (Be sincere. Do not white wash). 
2. Suit your evaluation to the speaker (e.g. their level of experience and personal style). 
3. Learn the speaker's objectives (easy! ask them!)
4. Listen actively. (Be alert. Get inside their head. Listen with your eyes. Match content with delivery).
5. Personalize your language. (e.g., "I think," "This is the effect your speech had on me")
6. Give positive reinforcement. (Avoid hollow flattery. Reinforcing strengths is very powerful! Builds self-esteem.) 
7. Help the speaker become motivated. (Recognize potential. Focus on what they did well that met speech objectives). 
8. Evaluate the behavior--not the person. 
9. Nourish self-esteem. (End evaluation on a positive note. Recognize strengths). 
10. Show the speaker how to improve. (Give examples of how to do better. Try to give two to three suggestions and examples). 

After the Meeting:

Return the manual to the speaker. (You may wish to borrow it for a day to fill in the evaluation form more fully. This is between you and the speaker.) Add a verbal word of encouragement to the speaker.

Helpful Videos on how to Evaluate Speeches

Toastmasters - Giving An Evaluation That's Worth A Darn
Chris Swanson, Memorial Hospital Toastmasters


Speech Evaluation Workshop (4 parts)
Harry from Emerging Speakers Toastmasters


General Evaluator

The purpose of the General Evaluator is to guide the members through an evaluation of the meeting. With the help of your evaluation team, you will offer your opinions on the strengths of the club and the areas where the club can improve the quality of our meetings.

Before the Meeting

As general evaluator you are responsible for facilitating the evaluation process. In preparation for the meeting you should contact all the participants that you are responsible for introducing (a formal introduction such as the Toastmaster would give is not necessary to introduce these participants). Review the sections of this guide for the various roles of the meeting that you will be evaluating. Prepare a brief explanation of evaluations.

At the Meeting

Your duties at the meeting include: 

--Introducing Speech Evaluators
--Reports from Ah Counter, Grammarian, and Timer
--Deliver general comments on meeting. 
--Return control to the Toastmaster.   

During the meeting, you must be attentive. Your role is to be an active observer of the meeting. You gather information on the performance of the members during the meeting. Your job includes listening and observing during the meeting and explaining the purpose of evaluations in the Toastmasters program. The job of an evaluator is not as easy as it might seem. Your job is to deliver your opinions on the performance of members in their various roles in a toastmaster meeting but first and foremost on the Evaluations provided by the speech evaluators. These evaluations must be constructive and positive in nature. Your responsibility is to outline the strengths of members' performances. 

You must also point out areas where members could improve their skills. Let your evaluation team make your job easier. Do not waste effort covering ground they have already covered. Your comments should be short and to the point. Observe the time restrictions as they are outlined on the agenda. You should do everything possible to keep the meeting running on schedule. Your comments may be short if your program is running behind schedule. If this is the situation, focus on the important comments you wish to make and end as close as you possibly can to the schedule. 

If the meeting is running behind schedule, you may want to focus on areas the club can work on to ensure the program is running on time. Treat the role of general evaluator as a learning experience for yourself as well as for the club. It gives you an opportunity to practice your listening skills. It allows you to learn more because of increasing your listening skills. This is an extremely important portion of the Toastmasters program.

Closing Inspiration

The closing inspiration is a chance for a mini-speech (or speech fragment). You could tell a story, relate a personal experience, or announce news. It can be on anything, but should be inspirational and thought-provoking. If possible, relate it to the meeting theme. Try to end the meeting on a high note.

Back Up Speaker

The back up speaker is simply a member who presents a speech in the event that a prepared speaker cancels for the evening. Members should always have a prepared speech in their "back pocket." It comes in handy when you are asked by the Toastmaster (or your supervisor) to give a speech in a moments notice. Like any other role, let the Toastmaster know if you don't have a speech ready as a back up for a cancelled speaker.