June 3, 2012

Annoying Toastmaster Guests With Attention

Shyby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

In a friendly club, members may refer to guests by name. This is easy to do when guests receive tent cards on which they write their names.

Guests may not appreciate the extra attention. You don’t know the struggle they overcame just to attend. Culture and gender may be factors too.

You may be adding more pressure by removing their anonymity. Saying a name is like pointing a finger or shining a spotlight.

Also, some names get mispronounced, which can be worse than silence.

My Tale

I don't like getting singled out in a new group. I can handle the attention but I’d rather  disappear into the background and observe. Afterwards, I might ask questions.

As President, I've been singled out on numerous occasions. Sometimes, I'm selected to start introductions or Table Topics. I don't mind but would prefer different criteria than a title.

Where The Trouble Starts

The club meeting starts with introductions. Each member stands up, gives their name and says when they joined. The greeting may start with
  • "Good evening, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests: that's safe
  • "Good evening everyone": short and safe (what I use)
  • "Good evening, fellow Toastmasters and welcome to our guests [followed by their first names]": may feel invasive, especially if several members name the guests


There's no perfect way to tell how much attention a guest wants. Asking would be awkward: “Would you like us to be friendly or pretend that you don’t exist?”

You can get clues by
  • watching how comfortable guests are during introductions
  • whether they participate during Table Topics and other interactive segments like the Debate or Viewpoint


You can't really tell how a guest wants to be treated. The safest solution is to use generic, all-inclusive terms like "Hello everyone".

If you want to be more personal, chat with the guest before the meeting, during breaks or afterwards. That's when using a name is much more appropriate.

Your thoughts?


Promod ("pro-MODE") of Taxevity doesn't like having his name used by new groups. In part, that's because of mispronunciations, misspellings or both. You’ll find him on LinkedIn.

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