In Toastmasters, members learn by participating. During club meetings, members will participate in many roles, and each one is a learning experience. Following are the roles a member will be called upon to fulfill and tips for doing a good job.
Toastmaster of the Meeting
Whatever the event, a key contribution to its success is the rehearsal and preparation put forth by the Master of Ceremonies. The same holds true for the person who leaders a Toastmasters meeting. Although ad-libbing skills can enhance any presentation, preparation is the key. Prior to the meeting, the Toastmaster always reviews the agenda, and briefly talks with the speakers and other participants, then uses that information to create an interesting instroduction for each person. The main duty of the Toastmaster is to act as a genial host and conduct the entire program, including introducing participants. If the Toastmaster does not perform the duties well, an entire meeting can end in failure. For obvious reasons, this task is not usually assigned to a member until he or she is quite familiar with the Club and its procedures. Program participants should be introduced in a way that excites the audience and motivates them to listen. The Toastmaster creates an atmosphere of interest, expectation, and receptivity.
No doubt you've guessed that the speaking program is the center of every Toastmasters meeting. After all, what's Toastmasters without the talking? But members don't just stand up and start yakking. They use the guidelines in the Competent Communication (CC) manual and the Advanced Communication (AC) manuals to fully prepare their presentations. The CC manual speeches usually last 5-7 minutes. AC manual project speeches are 5-7 minutes or longer depending upon the assignment.
Table Topics Master
The Toastmasters program has a tradition -- every member speaks at a meeting. The table topics session is that portion of the meeting which insures this tradition. The purpose of this period is to have members "think on their feet" and speak for a minute or so. The Table Topics Master prepares and issues the topics; originality is desirable as much as possible. Each speaker may be given an individual subject or a choice of subjects may be presented from which the members can draw at random. Like the Toastmaster of the meeting, the Table Topics Master directs a significant portion of the show. Being in charge of Table Topics can be a fun and creative experience, but is also calls for some planning. The Table Topics Master:
Gives priority to those without assigned roles. By checking the agenda prior to the meeting, the Table Topics Master avoids calling on the scheduled speakers or anyone else with an assigned speaking role. This gives other people in attendance an opportunity to participate.
Calls on guests. Before the meeting begins, the Table Topics Master privately asks guests if they would like to participate in Table Topics, then calls on guests during the session only if they agree to speak.
The General Evaluator is just what the name implies - an evaluator of anything and everything that takes place throughout the meeting. But the General Evaluator is not solely responsible for the evaluations. He has lieutenant evaluators to evaluate specific parts of the meeting-the speech evaluators, the grammarian, the ah-counter and the timer. The General Evaluator will evaluate only those which are not assigned to his lieutenants like the meeting venue, the table topics, the Toastmaster and the proceedings as a whole.
After every prepared speech, the speaker receives an evaluation. The purpose of the evaluation is to help the speaker become less self-conscious and a better speaker. This requires that the evaluator be fully aware of the speaker's skill level, habits, and mannerisms, as well as his or her progress to date. If the speaker uses a technique or some gesture that receives a good response from the audience, the evaluator will tell the speaker so he or she will be encouraged to use it again.
One benefit of Toastmasters is that it helps people improve their grammar and word use. Being grammarian also provides an exercise in expanding listening skills. The Grammarian has two basic responsibilities: First, to introduce new words to members, and second, to comment on the use of English during the course of the meeting.
The purpose of the ah counter is to note words and sounds used as a "crutch" or "pause filler" by anyone who speaks during the meeting. Words may be inappropriate interjections such as "and, well, but, so, you know." Sounds may be "ah, um, er." The Ah Counter also should note when a speaker repeats a word or phrase such as "I, I" or "This means, this means." The Ah-Counter role is an excellent opportunity to practice one's listening skills.
One of the lessons to be practiced in speech training is that of expressing a thought within a specific time. The timer is the member responsible for keeping track of time. Each segment of the meeting is timed.
In lieu of Table Topics, the club may occasionally have a Joke Session for relaxation after all the prepared speeches have been delivered. The Joke Master shall be give the first two jokes and then call on others to share their jokes. The Joke Master and the members shall keep the meeting wholesome and dignified by not sharing green and dirty jokes.
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