Toastmasters Roles – How To



Ah Counter




General Evaluator

Table Topics



The Toastmaster is a meeting’s director and host. You won’t usually be assigned this role until you are thoroughly familiar with the club and its procedures. If your club’s customs vary from those described here, ask your mentor or the club vice president education for pointers well before the meeting.

What to do:
Begin preparing for your role several days in advance.

You’ll need to know who will fill the other meeting roles and if a theme is planned for the meeting. You’ll also need an up-to-date meeting agenda.

Next, contact the general evaluator and make sure you’re both working from the same agenda. Ask the general evaluator to call other members of the evaluation team – speech evaluators, Topicsmaster, timer, grammarian, Ah-Counter – and remind them of their responsibilities. Remember, as the director, you’re responsible for ensuring all of the meeting’s players know their parts and hit their marks.

As the Toastmaster, you’ll introduce each speaker. If a speaker will not write his or her own introduction, you will write it. Introductions must be brief and carefully planned. Contact speakers several days before the meeting to ask about:

Speech topic and title
Manual and project title
Assignment objectives
Speaker’s personal objectives
Delivery time

You need all of these elements to create your introductions. Remember to keep the introductions between 30-60 seconds in length. Of course, you want to avoid awkward interruptions or gaps in meeting flow so your last preparation step before the meeting is to plan remarks you can use to make smooth transitions from one portion of the program to another. You may not need them, but you should be prepared for the possibility of awkward periods of silence

On meeting day, show up early. You’ll need time to make sure the stage is set for a successful meeting. To start, check with each speaker as they arrive to see if they have made any last-minute changes to their speeches – such as changing the title.

You and the speakers will need quick and easy access to the lectern. Direct the speakers to sit near the front of the room and make sure they leave a seat open for you near the front.

When it’s time to start the program, the club president calls the meeting to order. Sometimes he or she will make announcements, introduce guests or conduct other club business before introducing you.

When you’re introduced, the president will wait until you arrive at the lectern before being seated. (This is why you should sit at the front of the room.)

Pay attention to the time. You are responsible for beginning and ending the meeting on time. You may have to adjust the schedule during the meeting to accomplish this. Make sure each meeting segment adheres to the schedule. If time allows, you can make some brief remarks about Toastmasters’ educational program for the benefit of guests and new members before you move forward with the introductions:

Introduce the general evaluator as you would any speaker. Remain standing near the lectern after your introduction until the speaker has assumed control of the lectern, then be seated. The general evaluator will introduce the other members of the evaluation team.


Humor is a critical part of communication skills. How effective is constructive criticism without humor? Can you laugh at yourself?

The Toastmaster of the day, will call on you as the Jokester to give a joke. The joke can be a one-liner, a “groaner”, or a pleasant short story that leaves the members feeling good. You do not need to find the funniest joke ever told, nor do you need to deliver a joke so perfectly that the members are literally rolling on the floor laughing.

Make sure your joke is in good taste.

It’s all about practice. Practice your delivery. Practice the timing. Smile. Plan a pause to accommodate for audience reaction or laughter.

Most importantly, have fun with this meeting role!

What to do:

Prepare a brief but thorough summary of your role as Joke Master that explains your role in the program to visiting guests.

Prepare and practice a joke suitable for a Toastmasters meeting. It should take no more than 3 minutes to tell.
1) The best joke is one that you have learned from personal experience.
2) If you must find a joke from other sources, do not use the Internet. A joke published on the Internet has been read by thousands of people. Chances are that more than a few people in your audience have read or heard it more than once. Old books are a much better resource.
3) Humor should be of good taste. Objectionable contents or language is unacceptable at Toastmasters meetings.

Jokes that may be suitable at a party might not necessarily be suitable for a Toastmasters meeting. Avoid racial, sexist or otherwise offensive jokes. Jokes on religion and politics should also be avoided. As Toastmasters, we need to be aware of the feelings of our fellow members and be sensitive to them. If you are in doubt, get another joke.

Practice so that you can present it without reading. Use all the skills in vocal variety and body language to enhance the story line and will lead effectively to your punch-line.

Ah Counter
The purpose of the Ah-Counter is to note any word or sound used as a crutch by anyone who speaks during the meeting. Words may be inappropriate interjections, such as and, well, but, so and you know. Sounds may be ah, um or er. You should also note when a speaker repeats a word or phrase such as “I, I” or “This means, this means.” These words and sounds can be annoying to listeners. The Ah-Counter role is an excellent opportunity to practice your listening skills.

What to do:
The president will call the meeting to order and introduce the Toastmaster who will, in turn, introduce you and the other meeting participants. When you’re introduced, explain the role of the Ah-Counter.

Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone for sounds and long pauses used as fillers and not as a necessary part of sentence structure. Write down how many filler sounds or words each person used during all portions of the meeting.

When you’re called on by the general evaluator during the evaluation segment, stand by your chair and give your report.


You have several responsibilities: to introduce new words to members, to comment on language usage during the course of the meeting, and to provide examples of eloquence

What do do:
Before the meeting begins, place your word print outs around the roomwhere everyone can see it. Also get a blank piece of paper and pen ready to make notes.

When introduced:
– Announce the word of the day, state its part of speech, define it, use it in a sentence and ask that anyone speaking during any part of the meeting use it.
– Briefly explain the role of the grammarian.

Throughout the meeting, listen to everyone’s word usage. Write down any awkward use or misuse of the language (incomplete sentences, sentences that change direction in midstream, incorrect grammar or malapropisms) with a note of who erred. For example, point out if someone used a singular verb with a plural subject. “One in five children wear glasses” should be “one in five children wears glasses.” Note when a pronoun is misused. “No one in the choir sings better than her” should be “No one in the choir sings better than she.”

Write down who used the word of the day (or a derivative of it) and note those who used it correctly or incorrectly.

When called on by the general evaluator during the evaluation segment:

Stand by your chair and give your report.
Try to offer the correct usage in every instance of misuse (instead of merely announcing that something was wrong).
Report on creative language usage and announce who used the word of the day (or a derivative of it) correctly or incorrectly.


Competent Communicator Manual

The CC manual speeches usually last 5-7 minutes. ACS manual project speeches are 5-7 minutes or longer depending upon the assignment.

Every speaker is a role model and club members learn from one another’s speeches. Prepare and rehearse to ensure you present the best speech possible. Don’t insult your fellow club members by delivering a poorly prepared speech. However, it’s also true that no speech is perfect. So, get out there and try! Here’s what to do:

Check your club’s meeting schedule regularly to find out when you’re assigned to speak. Begin working on the speech at least a week in advance. That way, you have enough time to devote to research, organization and rehearsal.
If you don’t write your own speech introduction, make sure the Toastmaster of the meeting prepares a good one for you.
Several days before the meeting, ask the general evaluator for your evaluator’s name. Talk with your evaluator about the speech you’ll give. Discuss your speech goals and personal concerns. Let your evaluator know where you believe your speech ability needs strengthening, so he or she can pay special attention to those aspects of your presentation. Remember to bring your manual to the meeting.
You should arrive at the meeting early to check the microphone, lighting and anything else that could malfunction and ruin your talk. Give your manual to your evaluator before the meeting starts and discuss any last-minute issues with him or her. Sit near the front of the room and carefully plan your approach to the lectern and your speech opening.
During the meeting, give your full attention to the speakers at the lectern. Don’t study your speech notes while someone else is talking. When you’re introduced, smoothly and confidently leave your chair and walk to the lectern. After your speech, wait for the Toastmaster to return to the lectern, then return to your seat. Listen intently during your evaluation for helpful hints that will assist in building better future talks.
After the meeting, reclaim your manual from your evaluator. Discuss any questions you may have concerning your evaluation to clarify and avoid any misinterpretations.


You will provide both verbal and written evaluations for speakers using the guide in the manual. You’ll always give a written evaluation for leadership roles, though verbal evaluations for leaders are handled differently from club to club.

What to do:
Several days before the meeting, talk with the speaker or leader you’ve been assigned to evaluate and find out which manual project they will present. Review the project goals and what the speaker or leader hopes to achieve.

Evaluation requires careful preparation if the speaker or leader is to benefit. Study the project objectives as well as the evaluation guide in the manual. Remember, the purpose of evaluation is to help people develop their speaking or leadership skills in various situations. By actively listening, providing reinforcement for their strengths and gently offering useful advice, you motivate members to work hard and improve. When you show the way to improvement, you’ve opened the door to strengthening their ability.

When you arrive at the meeting, speak briefly with the general evaluator to confirm the evaluation session format. Then retrieve the manual from the speaker or leader and ask one last time if he or she has any specific goals in mind.

Record your impressions in the manual, along with your answers to the evaluation questions. Be as objective as possible. Remember that good evaluations may give new life to discouraged members and poor evaluations may dishearten members who tried their best. Always provide specific methods for improving and present them in a positive manner.

When you give a verbal evaluation, stand and speak when introduced. Though you may have written lengthy responses to manual evaluation questions, don’t read the questions or your responses. Your verbal evaluation time is limited. Don’t try to cover too much in your talk; two or three points is plenty.

Begin and end your evaluation with a note of encouragement or praise. Commend a successful speech or leadership assignment and describe specifically how it was successful. Don’t allow the speaker or leader to remain unaware of a valuable asset such as a smile or a sense of humor. Likewise, don’t permit the speaker or leader to remain ignorant of a serious fault: if it is personal, write it but don’t mention it aloud. Give the speaker or leader deserved praise and tactful suggestions in the manner you would like to receive them.

After the meeting, return the manual to the speaker or leader. Add another word of encouragement and answer any questions the member may have.

General Evaluator

If you think of a club meeting as a project, then you can see the general evaluator as a kind of project manager. As GE, your responsibilities include:

Ensuring the speech and leadership project evaluators know their responsibilities
Supervising the timer, grammarian and Ah-Counter
Evaluating everything that takes place during the club meeting
Making sure each activity is performed correctly

What to do:
Several days before the meeting, contact the person who will be Toastmaster of the meeting and confirm the meeting program. You should also develop a checklist to follow during the meeting so you don’t have to keep all the details in your head. Some clubs have a prepared checklist. If your club doesn’t have one, ask the Toastmaster to help you create your own checklist.

When discussing the meeting program with the Toastmaster, ask what evaluation format to use. Typically, an evaluator is assigned to an individual, but sometimes evaluations are done by panels. The general evaluator may set up any evaluation procedure he or she chooses, but it should fit into the meeting program. Remember, too, that every evaluation must be brief and complete. Review the Effective Evaluation manual for different evaluation formats.

You’ll also need to contact members serving as:

Individual evaluators

Remind them of their assignments, and brief evaluators on their responsibilities, the members they will evaluate and the evaluation format to use. Make sure the evaluators understand that evaluation is a positive, helping act that enables fellow Toastmasters to develop their skills. Point out that an evaluation should enhance the speaker’s self-esteem and encourage evaluators to prepare thoroughly for their role. Recommend that they call the member they’ve been assigned to evaluate to discuss specific project objectives.

Your final task before the meeting is to prepare a brief verbal explanation detailing:

The purpose, techniques and benefits of evaluation so guests and new members will better understand the function of evaluations.
How evaluation is a positive experience designed to help people overcome flaws and reinforce good habits in their presentations.

On meeting day:

Arrive early.
Make sure all evaluators are present and that they have the appropriate speaker or leader’s manual.
If an evaluator is absent, consult with the vice president education and arrange for a substitute.
Ask each evaluator if he or she has any questions about the project objectives to be evaluated, verify each speaker’s time and notify the timer if there are any changes.
Take your seat near the back of the room. This will ensure you have a good view of the meeting and all its participants.

The Toastmaster of the meeting introduces the general evaluator before the Table Topics portion of the meeting.

When you’re introduced:

Stand by your chair and deliver the explanation you prepared.

During the meeting, use your checklist and take notes on everything that happens (or doesn’t, but should). For example: Is the club’s property (e.g. trophies, banner, educational material) properly displayed? Were there unnecessary distractions that could have been avoided? Did the meeting, and each segment of it, begin and end on time?

Study each participant on the program, from the person giving the invocation or thought for the day to the last report by the timer. Look for good and less than desirable examples of preparation, organization, delivery, enthusiasm, observation and general performance of duties. When it’s time to begin the evaluation portion of the meeting, the Toastmaster will introduce you, again. This time, you’ll go to the lectern and introduce each evaluator. After each recitation, thank the evaluator for his or her efforts.

Finally, give your general evaluation of the meeting:

Use your checklist and the notes you took during the meeting.
Phrase your evaluation so it is helpful, encouraging and motivates club members to implement the suggestions.
You may wish to comment on the quality of evaluations. Were they positive, upbeat, helpful? Did they point the way to improvement?
When you’ve completed your evaluation, return control of the meeting to the Toastmaster.

Table Topics

Table Topics is about developing your ability to organize your thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic.

What to do:
Table Topics usually begins after the prepared speech presentations. The Toastmaster of the meeting will introduce the Topicsmaster who will walk to the lectern and assume control of the meeting. The Topicsmaster will give a brief description of the purpose of Table Topics and mention if the topics will carry a theme.

The Topicsmaster will state the question or topic briefly and then call on a respondent. Each speaker receives a different topic or question and participants are called on at random.


As timer you are responsible for monitoring time for each meeting segment and each speaker. You’ll also operate the timing signal, indicating to each speaker how long he or she has been talking. Serving as timer is an excellent opportunity to practice giving instructions and time management – something we do every day.

What to do:
Before the meeting, contact the Toastmaster and general evaluator to confirm which members are scheduled program participants. Then contact each speaker to confirm the time they’ll need for their prepared speech.
You’ll also need to write an explanation of your duties, emphasizing timing rules and how timing signals will be given. For the benefit of guests and new members, be sure to use the clearest possible language and rehearse your presentation.
On meeting day, retrieve the timing equipment from the sergeant at arms. Be sure you understand how to operate the stopwatch and signal device, make certain the timing equipment works and sit where the signal device can be seen by all.
The Toastmaster of the meeting will usually call on you to explain the timing rules and demonstrate the signal device. Stand by your chair to do so and then be seated.
Throughout the meeting, listen carefully to each program participant and signal them. Speakers will have a 30 second grace period at the end of the speaking time. However, these times may vary from club to club. In addition, signal the chairman, Toastmaster and Topicsmaster with red when they have reached their allotted or agreed-upon time. Use the timer’s report or a blank piece of paper to record each participant’s name and time used.
When you’re called to report by the Topicsmaster, Toastmaster or general evaluator, stand by your chair, announce the speaker’s name and the time taken. Mention those members who are eligible for awards if your club issues awards.
After the meeting, return the stopwatch and timing signal device to the sergeant at arms. Give the completed timer’s report to the secretary so he or she can record it in the minutes (if this is done in your club).


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