February 5, 2012

How To Keep Toastmaster Meetings On Time

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

Every minute counts. Every second counts.

The Chair has the overall responsibility to keep the club meeting on schedule. This can be the most difficult part of the role. In a vibrant club, there's more to do than time allows. It's easy for a meeting to go off track. Here are the three biggest places
  1. Introductions
  2. Table Topics
  3. The Business Session
Meetings are meant to start on time and end on time. That's tough when some sections are unpredictable in length. Some meetings have extra guests. We can all help the Chair by being quick. 


Introductions by members are often boring and routine.
"Hello fellow members and honoured guests. I'm (insert name here) and I've been a member of this club for (insert length here). Tonight I'm your (insert role here)."
This a good time to be creative. For example, you can inject a short snippet of good news that you’re bubbling to tell other members. For example,
"Good evening. I’m (insert name here) and today is my one year anniversary at this club."
That’s short and more memorable. Since you know you’ll introduce yourself, be ready. Push your chair back so you can stand up gracefully and without delay. Your introduction time is your own. You needn’t rush. Don’t start your introduction until you’ve finished standing up and paused.

After the introductions, the Chair may repeat the roles (which may also be on a handout, screen or whiteboard). Who’s paying attention. In the beginning, being redundant may help boost your confidence and reduce your nervousness. As you gain experience, you can streamline.

Table Topics

Speaking without preparation builds our skills. The Table Topics Master helps by keeping the preamble short and the instructions simple. Attendees help by avoiding filler phrases like "Hello fellow Toastmasters and honoured guests". Interjecting irrelevant stories before starting wastes time too. Even worse, you're robbing yourself of the opportunity to speak impromptu.

We aren’t robots but can be efficient. Once again, push your chair back before it's your turn. 

If there are more attendees than usual, the Table Topics Master can compensate by reducing the speaking time slightly (say from 60 seconds to 50 seconds). With 25 attendees, that’s a saving of about four minutes.

Business Session

If there is a motion, the schedule can get disrupted — especially when there's a motion. The goal isn't to rush or muzzle the discussions but to maintain momentum by paying attention to the clock. If Table Topics went unusually long, the business session can be shortened to compensate.

Major Roles

If you have one of the major roles such as Table Topics Master or Debate Master or Lesson Master or Viewpoint Master, you've got an obligation to help the meeting flow smoothly. You'll appreciate this when you're Chair. It's best to deal with delays in a way that the group doesn't notice. Sometimes nothing can be done (e.g., a computer needs to be rebooted). That’s the time to “go with the flow" rather than getting tense and making others tense.

What if we're too good? Our “penalty” is a longer break or an earlier exit.
Do you have other suggestions?


Promod Sharma is currently in a 12 week Pick Four goals program (blog post). You’ll find him on LinkedIn.

No comments:

Post a Comment