Duty Roles

Here are some tips and tricks to help out newer members prepare for various duties.


  • The Invocator offers a thought for the day, a bit of inspiration, perhaps keyed to a previously announced theme for the day, and is usually the first person to speak after that day's Toastmaster (TM) takes control of the meeting.
  • The Invocation can be pretty much whatever you like and think is appropriate to help set the tone for a successful meeting.
  • Keep it to a maximum of 2 minutes.

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  • When called on to explain the Timer role at the beginning of a meeting, you should include the following:
    • Table Topics are two minutes.
    • Evaluations are three minutes.
    • Speeches are normally seven minutes, but may be longer.
    • When there is 2 minutes left, the green light comes on
    • When there is 1 minute left, the yellow light comes on
    • When their time is up, the red light comes on
    • There is a 30 second 'grace' period after the red light comes on. After that, the red light will begin to flash (the computer may beep) and we will all applaud until you stop talking and sit down.
    • NOTE: For ice breaker speeches only, the screen will blink, but there will be no beeping and we will not applaud or interrupt your speech.
    • There is no fine if you speak too long or not long enough.
    • At the end of the meeting, you will give your report
  • At the end of the meeting, you will need to give a report of the allocated and used time for each speaker, TT, and Evaluator (including the GE).
  • For speeches, if you have a range of minutes, use the high value to set the timer.
  • Start the timer as soon as the speaker begins their presentation.
  • Make sure you know how to operate the computer timer. And, should the computer timer be unavailable, ask the Sergeant At Arms for the colored "timing cards" as an an alternate timing method.

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Ballot Counter:

  • Your role is to collect and process the votes for best speaker, best evaluator and best table topic speaker. At the beginning of the meeting, the TM will ask you how you want the ballots.
  • Some people like to wait until the very end of the meeting and then count up the votes for each category. Others prefer to get the votes after each section (TT, speeches, and evaluations). This second option provides you with more time to count so there is less rush at the end of the meeting. However, you can pick whatever seems more comfortable to you, and advise the group when the TM calls on you to explain your role. ''
  • Remember that the General Evaluator is also eligible to be best evaluator, so you don't want to collect ballots (or evaluator ballots) until the GE is done.
  • Write out the winners for each category and give it to the president who will present the awards to the whole group.
  • Give each speaker the slips with the audience feedback .

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Ah Counter - You can count anything that is an unnecessary filler such as:

  • Your job is to track those times when someone makes a vocal sound to fill the gaps that happens as they think of what to say. These are collectively referred to as "Ahs." Examples are:
    • Ahhh, Ummm,
    • You Know
    • OK, so
    • Repeated words (I I, You you, etc.)
    • ''
  • When asked to explain your duties at the start of the meeting, you should include include the following.
    • You will track each ahhh, ummm, etc. for each person
    • At the end of the meeting, you will give a report
    • The fine will be 5 cents for each infraction.
    • There is a maximum fine of 50 cents.
  • In your report at the end of the meeting:
    • Let each person know their total number of "Ahs," and give examples of any that were especially prevalent, perhaps grouping them similar to the list above.
    • .

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Word Master - This is an easy job if you plan well.

  • Here are some tips for getting a word:
  • Once you've picked a word, print it out. Try to use the following guidelines:
    • Print the word and its definition in large fonts (with the word larger than the definition) so they can be read from a distance.
    • Print out several copies so these can be taped around the meeting room.
    • Use Landscape mode if that makes for better legibility.
    • Before the meeting starts, paste the WOTD pages around the room so they can be read from all angles.
  • Remember that there is a twenty five cent find for anyone who speaks and does not use the word.
  • IMPORTANT: Please be sure to remove these pages (and the tape!) as soon as the meeting concludes.

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Grammarian - The Grammarian role is sometimes folded into the Wordmaster role. The role is to listen to incorrect or otherwise problematic use of the English language. This can be easy, but it requires careful listening.

The Grammarian also listens for especially GOOD or effective use of the language: distinctive phrases, unusual but appropriate formulations, and so on.

Unlike forgetting to use the WOTD, there are no fines for incorrect language usage (or rewards for especially good usage!)

Particular things to listen for include:

  • Incorrect use of a plural when singular should be used.
  • Mixing past and present tenses
  • Words that come in an awkward order, or that differ from what the speaker was apparently trying to say.
  • Please keep in mind that English many not be the speaker's native language, and that pointing our errors should be done gently, and in the spirit of helping.

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Table Topics Master - Your role is to ask questions of or elicit points of view from the members. The purpose is for members to practice answering speaking with little or no preparation. The topic is usually based on the day's theme, and will have been announced in advanced. If you have a particular theme or idea in mind for Table Topics, you can arrange that the VP of Education and/or that week's Toastmaster - but please give them plenty of notice.

A few key things to remember:

  • Check with the TM ahead of time to find out how much time has been allocated for Table Topics, so you can be sure to have enough. This may depend on whether TT is scheduled for before or after the speeches and evaluations.
  • Come prepared with at least 5 or 6 questions. It is better to have too many than too few.
  • Some people will take very little time to answer. Others may take quite a bit of time and run out the clock. Leave it to the TM to manage the time since they know how much they have allocated for TT.
  • As each member is answering your question, look to the TM to make sure there is time for another one.
  • If you run out of questions and can't think of any, then reuse one of the earlier ones.
  • Always call on members who have NO duties first. Then those with light duties (anything other than speakers, evaluators, or the TM.)

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  • Here are some tips for you to remember while evaluating a speech:
    • Before the speech, try to check the speaker's manual so you're familiar with the guidelines and objective of the speech, and what particular things you should be looking for as evaluator. You will be marking your evaluation in the speaker's manual after the their presentation.
    • Before the speech, ask the speaker if there are things they would like you to be especially on the lookout for.
    • Try to avoid commenting on the subject matter, and focus instead on how the speech was delivered.
    • How relaxed was the speaker? Was he or she tied to one spot on the stage?
    • Eye contact – did she try to look people in the eye while speaking or did her eyes just 'stare out 'over the heads of the audience
    • Did his voice change from it's normal volume and tone when he needed to make a point?
      • Did it get loud or soft?
      • What about the pitch and other forms of vocal variety? Did that change much?
    • Gestures – Did she 'pray' - holding her hands in front of her as though praying. Or did she hold her hands in some other way that wasn't conducive to the presentation. Generally, hands should be at the side, not in the speaker's pocket, except when gesturing. When she did gesture, do it add to her presentation or was she 'speaking' "through" her gestures rather than using them for emphasis or dramatic effect.
    • Body language? Did he smile or use other facial gestures to make a point or put the audience at ease? What other aspects of body language affected how you felt about the presentation?
    • Did he have a good opening? Did it get your attention?
    • Was her content presented in such a way that she held your attention?
    • Did she have a conclusion that wrapped up what she said?
      • Did the presentation seem hurried?
      • Did it leave you with a 'satisfied' feeling?
    • If she didn't use or look at notes much – did the presentation seem to flow well? Did she jump around or seem to back track to get points she accidentally missed due to not using notes?
    • Did it appear as if she had rehearsed it and was familiar with the subject matter and how she was going to deliver it? Was there an "over-rehearsed" quality to the presentation?
  • Here are some tips for you to remember while preparing and presenting your evaluation:
    • As you go over the list, identify the things the speaker did well and the things that he or she might have some room to improve. As you get ready to do your spoken evaluation, pick the top two – four of each and present those. After the meeting, you can give the speaker your notes which may identify additional comments to those you mention during your evaluation, so don't try to cram in so many points that you run out of time. You will have three minutes to do the evaluation – but you might be surprised by how fast the time can go.
    • Try to avoid saying 'You should not do...' instead, use phrases like '''You might consider'. In other words, you don't want to tell him what to do, just give him ideas of what you might do.
    • Try to give the kind of evaluation that you would like to receive: Helpful, supportive, insightful, and gentle.

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General Evaluator

During the week before the meeting, the General Evaluator is responsible for the following:

  • Providing her or his introduction to the TM
  • Be sure you know who will be speaking, as well as the title of their speech, and the manual and speech number they will be doing.
  • Contacting all the Evaluators and assigning them to a given speaker.
  • Get a brief introduction from each evaluator so you can introduce them. If these introductions can reflect the day's theme, so much the better.
  • Paying attention to how well the TM communicates and prepares during the week.

During the meeting:

  • Your first and highest priority is to provide feedback to the evaluators. One approach is to evaluate each speaker as if you were evaluating them. Then compare your notes to what was said by the evaluator. But also look for other things including:
    • How well did they explain the pros and cons of the presentation?
    • Did they evaluate the speech or the content (we are learning to speak better, how well did they do in presenting their topic, regardless of what it may have been. ''The most common exception to this rule might be if it were a speech 'to persuade' in which case, the evaluator could indicate if they were persuaded or not.
    • Where possible, did they demonstrate the pro or con as they explained it?
    • Did they have a roughly equal number of pros and cons?
    • Was the evaluation appropriate for the speaker's skill level?
    • Was the constructive feedback given in a positive way?
    • For opinion issues, did the evaluator use terms like 'I felt that …' or 'I prefer to …', etc.?
    • Did they finish on time?
  • Once you have evaluated the evaluators, use the remaining time to evaluate the TM and meeting overall. This might include:
    • Was the pre-meeting organization handled well or did the TM wait until the last minute?
    • Was the TM well prepared for the meeting?
    • Were unexpected issues handled well?
    • Did the meeting start on time and flow smoothly?
    • If guests were there, were they properly introduced?
    • Were the duties clearly explained?
    • Was the TT Master prepared for as many questions as the TM needed to fill the time? Were they appropriate for the topic?
    • Were all the speakers (SP, GE, and TT) properly introduced? If not, was it the TM's fault or did the member not provide an adequate introduction? If the latter, how well did the TM handle it?

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Toastmaster of the Day

  • OK, you have probably performed most if not all of the other duties and are now ready for this one. Think back on your experiences with the other duties. How did the various TMs interact with you? What seemed to help you and what did not? What could the TM have done to make your task easier, more fun, less frustrating, etc.? Then think about how you could address those issues when you are TM.
  • The easiest way to plan the meeting is to use the agenda used by the VPE to schedule duties. Work closely with the VPE, who should be familiar with the roles for next week's meeting. .
  • Review the schedule to see who has what duties. Then email the list to the group identifying all the people who have duties, what those duties are, and asking for confirmation. Try to do this as soon after the previous week's meeting to give participants time to prepare. Ask those with duties to confirm their availability and preparedness to fill the role. Ask them to confirm their availability with you. The lack of confirmation of roles is the biggest contributor to a disorganized meeting.
  • Although you should list the evaluators in your initial email and ask them for confirmations, it is the GEs responsibility to contact the evaluators and assign them to speakers. Communicate with the GE to make you are all in sync.
  • Speaking of the GE, they can be a big help in getting ready for the meeting.
  • If someone lets you know that they cannot perform a given task, ask them if they would try to find a replacement and then let you know who they found. You will have enough on your hands so thatit's easier to have the member find the replacement.
  • Identify one TM member who is very experienced and can fill in for any role. Contact them to confirm they will be at the meeting and ask them if they can be your 'emergency' backup. If a member oversleeps or just doesn't show up, you can fall back on this person to bail you out without having to run around last minute.
  • For each speaker, the TT, and the GE, request that they provide you with an introduction. If it can be keyed to the day's theme, so much the better, but it need not be.
  • Either use the spreadsheet the VPE uses to schedule the meetings or get a template of the meeting schedule from the Yahoo Groups site (in the files section) and use that to figure out who you will call and in what order. Some people like to identify the Ahh counter and Word Master first so that they can start listening for infractions immediately. And then call on them last at the end of the meetings when people are giving their report. This way, they can get the most revenue for the club
  • Remember to call the joke master after the last duty report. You can identify the joke master when you are asking people to explain their duties, but they usually won't say anything until the end. You do have the option to call them BEFORE the ahh counter though….
  • If you have to double up any duties, DO NOT give the ballot counter an additional duty that requires a report at the end of the meeting (they need that time to tally ballots, etc.)
  • When the meeting starts, be aware of any guests. If we have guests, make sure that the duties and purposes of each part of the meeting are clearly explained so the guest understands the various ways they can benefit.
  • Contact the TT master in advance and make sure they have AT LEAST 5 questions. You control the time of the meeting. If you have two 5-7 minute speeches, you have time for at least 5 TT questions (or more if some people speak for a very short time.) Please provide the TT master with the following lists:
    • All the members with no duties at all (so they will have at least one chance to speak during the meeting)
    • All members (and the duty) who have 'light duties (ahh counter, ballot counter, etc.) so they can be called on if there are few or no members without a duty.
    • Remind the TT that they should not be calling on members who are performing any of the following jobs: GE, TM, SP, or E. These people should only be called if all the other members have been called first – and then, start with the Evaluators first.
    • Remind the TT not to call on any guests (unless they are current TM members in another club or former members of our club.)
    • After the third question, expect the TT Master to look at you for a signal. Should they keep going or not? Look at your schedule. If they ask another question, will it result in the meeting going late? If not, go for it. Remember that we used to have 3 speakers (and evaluators) per meeting, so you should have time unless a speaker is giving a long speech.
    • NOTE: The spreadsheet the VPE has will generate a list of minor/no duty members for you.
  • Try to contact your speakers early in the week to give them time to prepare. Ask them which manual they will be using to create their speech (we want to encourage members to speak from the manuals.)
  • Introductions:
    • Your GE can be introduced with a standard introduction. (Remember that they will then introduce each evaluator.)
    • Each speaker should be introduced with the introduction you received from them (hopefully in advance.) You should then also specify the following:
      • Speech title
      • Manual used
      • Purpose of the speech
      • Time range
      • NOTE: if a non manual speech, there should still be a title, purpose, and time range.
    • Don't forget to send your introduction to the President to be used to introduce you!
  • Remember that the Sgt. at arms will start the meeting and call up the President of the club. That person will then call on the invocator. Following that, they will introduce you. Make sure you have sent them information for them to use for your introduction.
  • If you have to call on any members to fill in at the last minute, remember to update the member lists you give to the TT master.
  • If you are in a position of having to find a replacement because some member did not have any consideration for you, consider the following:
    • Use newer members to fill in for light duties (provided they have done it at least once before.)
    • Use seasoned members to fill in for more involved duties. You have a number of members who can perform SP, E, GE, and/or TT duties with little or no preparation. Don't 'waste' them by giving them a 'light' duty until you are sure your major duties are filled.
  • When you are done, you will return control of the meeting to the President who will announce the winners, bring up any club business, review next week's duties, etc. Your job is done after you call up the joke master.

Feel free to submit any additional Tips and Tricks of your own. Just send them to the Webmaster.

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