A Toastmasters Meeting Play-by-Play

by Cori Arnold, PM2, Mount Vernon Club

Ever listen to the commentators during a sports broadcast?  One commentator’s role is to provide the play-by-play and the other’s is to provide the commentary – quick facts, statistics, and stories.  The play-by-play commentator breaks down what is happening, how the play is unfolding, and who’s involved. If we had a play-by-play commentator for Toastmasters meetings, how would it go?

The Toastmasters meeting starts. It’s go time.

The Club President starts with the ball, kicking off the meeting.  You never know what the President will say – general comments, a tip, a joke, or other news in Toastmasters.  Tonight, it’s an announcement about the annual speech contest season starting soon.

The President completes her thought and passes the ball to the Toastmaster-of-the-Day.  The Toastmaster, similar to the point guard in basketball, manages the flow of the meeting.  He starts with an introduction to the theme of the meeting and gives a quick run-down of the planned speeches and who is assigned to which roles.

Some of the roles the Toastmaster announces are the General Evaluator, Ah-Counter, Grammarian, and Timer.  These roles are similar to the defense.  They don’t get talked about much, but they are vital.  They provide awareness for the meeting participants as they observe their respective areas throughout the meeting. 

The General Evaluator has the responsibility to evaluate the meeting overall.  This role is the captain of the rest of the team, the Ah-Counter, Grammarian, Timer, and Speech Evaluator, also known as the General Evaluator subteam.

  • The Ah-Counter counts all of those distracting, filler words – um, ah, so, like, you know, etc.  Don’t we all use these at some point?  Wouldn’t you like to be more aware of how often you’re using these?
  • The Grammarian counts all of the grammar errors we speak.  These could be words or phrases that if we tweaked could help us sound more professional or engaging.
  • The Speech Evaluator gives the Meeting Speaker specific feedback on her speech.
  • The Timer times the speeches, the Table Topics, and the evaluations, allowing the speaker to see if she is within the recommended time or not.  Time management is critical when giving your speeches and performing your roles, just like it is during a sports game.
  • The Toastmaster then gives the introduction for the Meeting Speaker.  This is a short description of the speaker and the topic the speaker will speak about. 

It’s about time for the big play of the night. The Toastmaster passes the ball to the Meeting Speaker.

The Meeting Speaker takes the ball and gives her five-to-seven-minute speech.  This is a preplanned speech on a particular topic based on the Pathways Level the speaker is on.

During the speech, there are many things happening in the background.  The Ah-Counter is tracking, the Timer is timing, the Speech Evaluator is evaluating.  All of these activities provide for a good team and good feedback for the speaker.

When the Meeting Speaker finishes, the Toastmaster takes back the ball and either introduces the second speaker or passes the ball to the Table Topics host.

Fan participation builds excitement and fun.

The Table Topics host has the fun job to present the theme and describe the rules.  This is the point in the meeting where many participants get involved.  This is the point where impromptu speaking skills grow.  The participants are given a topic or question and asked to speak for 1-2 minutes. 

This is pure offense as the Table Topics host passes the ball between different teammates – the participants.  Who will give the slam dunk talk?  At the same time, the defenders – the General Evaluator subteam – are working in the background to make the offense better.

Feedback is key on all fronts.

The Toastmaster takes back the ball from the Table Topics host and passes it to the General Evaluator.  This person evaluates the meeting overall.  He highlights anything that has piqued his interest, from a funny Table Topic talk to how the theme of the meeting has been incorporated to something interesting the Meeting Speaker said. The general evaluation is similar to a time-out in a game.  The team takes a time-out to recognize where they are, how the game has gone, and what they need to do to finish strong.

  • The General Evaluator then passes the ball to the Speech Evaluator.  She gives detailed feedback on the performance of the Meeting Speaker.  The role of this evaluation is to help the Meeting Speaker grow in different areas, including vocal variety, speaking speed, speech content, speech format, and timing.
  • The General Evaluator then passes the ball to the Timer.  The Timer runs through the times for each of the speakers throughout the meeting, and then passes the ball back to the General Evaluator.
  • The General Evaluator then passes the ball to the Ah Counter, who states the number of um’s, ah’s, so’s, etc, to the participants. 
  • Similarly, the Grammarian also gets the ball and gives his feedback.

The Toastmaster takes back the ball one last time and hands it over to the Club President, who gives the final remarks.

Celebrate the wins.

Unlike sports, Toastmasters meetings always end with a win.  There are many roles to volunteer for in meetings as well as many ways to participate.  Meetings are a safe place where participants can learn and grow.  None of us speak perfectly, which is why we are there.

You can visit any club.  Become a spectator and join the game today.  There isn’t anything to be scared of.  If you don’t want to speak at the meeting, you don’t have to.  Visiting a meeting will give you a firsthand look at how these roles work with each other.  We are all one big team at Toastmasters. 

Visit any of our District 10 clubs and improve your speaking, leadership, and organizational skills today! Here are a few upcoming Club Open Houses and Guest Events just for you.

The entries in this blog are the opinions of their respective authors. These opinions are not authorized by, endorsed by, sponsored by, or otherwise affiliated with Toastmasters International.

April Ware

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