April 14, 2012

Toastmaster Roles: Chair

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

The Chair is responsible for making sure the Toastmasters meeting runs smoothly. This is the most complicated role of all and involves
  1. Picking the meeting theme
  2. Filling the roles
  3. Running the meeting
As an example, we'll use a meeting the day before Friday the 13th. I was the Chair this time.

Picking The Theme

Each meeting has a unifying theme. At Goodyear Toastmasters, the Chair decides. This week started with Easter Monday and ended with Friday the 13th. Three members were on vacation. We meet on Thursday evenings for two hours.

This is what I sent members.
Our Theme could be Friday the 13th Eve (an uncelebrated event), Taxes (but that's depressing) or Chocolate (if the Easter Bunny dropped visited you). Instead, our theme is Writing A Book. What would you write about? What's the title? Why would anyone want to read it? How would you market your book? Would you self-publish or look for a traditional publisher? Would you save trees by having only an ebook? [Pretend that you can write and want to write, even if you can't and don't.]
Generally, the theme will be used by the Table Topics Master, Quotes Master, Humour Master and Trivia Master. They also provide their thoughts on the theme.

Filling The Roles

Each meeting as different roles. Mine had 17. I was responsible for filling them. The VP of Education assigns the roles a month in advance but there are usually changes. Since waiting for confirmation complicates the Chair’s role, I set an expiry date and time. Unclaimed roles go to whoever asks first.

Three days before the meeting, 8 roles were unclaimed. Two days prior, 6 roles were unclaimed. That may look horrible (and it isn't great) but members volunteers to help. One day before the meeting, only one role was unclaimed. The day of the meeting, all roles were filled.

Running The Meeting

Much of the Chair's work is done prior to the meeting. There may be last minute issues. If a member with an assigned role doesn't show up, the Chair finds a replacement or makes adjustments.

The Chair is responsible for getting the meeting started on time. That’s easy because the Sargent At Arms does this. The challenge is finishing on time.

The timing is tricky. This meeting looked fine but the Business Session took longer because of a motion ("Members are to wear black to the next meeting") with an amendment ("and sunglasses"). This was inspired by the Men In Black films. Both the amendment and motion were defeated but the discussions took time.

I shortened the Break to keep on track. However, a speaker required the projector. Normally equipment is setup before the meeting but this speaker request the setup in advance or arrive early. A seven minute delay resulted.

The Toastmaster attempted to close the gap by asking Evaluators to give their evaluations from their seats rather than coming to the podium. The Toastmaster also skipped the Thoughts On The Theme from the General Evaluator.

The overall meeting finished five minutes late. That's not a huge deal but as Chair, I like to finish on time.


That's how the role of Chair works. You probably won't be assigned this role until you're ready. Even if you're experienced, there are still challenges. There's also the pleasure of being in charge.


Promod Sharma is working his first book. The topic is Trust And You. He hasn’t written a word but has setup trustandyou.com and @trustandyou to start the marketing.

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