Meetings and Roles

A Typical Meeting

A typical Burnaby Mountain Toastmasters Meeting is about 1-2 hrs in length, depending on the number of attendees at the meeting. A meeting consists of two parts:

  1. an impromptu portion, which consists of Table Topics (first half) and
  2. a prepared portion, which consists of speeches (second half).

In the impromptu portion, you will be given a table topic, and you will have a few seconds to prepare a 1-2 minute talk about the topic. This is to help you to “think on your feet” and be able to quickly answer any type of question asked.

In the prepared portion, up to 2 members will have a prepared speech to present of 5-7 minute length. This portion of the meeting is to help the speakers practice with presentations and the preparation of the speech.

Of course, everything in Toastmasters is evaluated, since that will give feedback to the speaker AND provide the audience with tips for improvement. Also each meeting has members perform certain roles to help run the meeting. The roles are shown below.

Role Information

Information about the various roles performed at a standard Burnaby Mountain Toastmasters meeting.


  • Roles that are expected to be filled at every meeting.

The Chair (CH)


The Chair serves as a host for the meeting. As the Chair, you would ensure that all the roles for the meeting are filled, and that the meeting starts on time. Your duty as Chair would also include providing an introduction for the Table Topics Master, Table Topics Evaluator, Speakers, Prepared Speech Evaluators, General Evaluator, Timer, and Grammarian. Also, the Chair has the option of setting a theme for the meeting. The Chair is the captain of the meeting, cheering for all the speakers and creating a positive environment for the meeting.


  1. Ensure that all the roles for the meeting are filled. This will require a phone confirmation 2 or 3 days in advance from members positioned in the roles. It may also include correspondence with the Vice President of Education, who prepares the schedule for the meeting. If a role is vacant, it is your duty to find someone to fill it.
  2. The Chair has the option of asking each member to introduce themselves for the benefit of new guests. These introductions are generally more interesting if the Chair asks a question to be answered in the introductions.
  3. Introduce the Table Topics Master, Table Topics Evaluator, Speakers, Prepared Speech Evaluators, Timer, Grammarian and General Evaluator. The introductions include name of the individual filling in the role and an explanation of their role.


As the “captain” of the meeting, it is imperative that the Chair emanates a positive attitude, and creates a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere indicative to learning. The Chair should commend the speaker and provide relevant comments in-between the presentation and the next speaker. This is referred to as bridging. Also, the Chair should lead the clapping (beginning when the speakers are called to the lectern) and shake the speakers’ hand before and after the presentation. And finally, the Chair should keep an eye on the time, to ensure that the meeting starts and ends on time. For example, if the meeting is running late, the Chair should tell the table topics master to shorten the table topics session.

The Table Topics Master (TTM)


The Table Topics Master prepares and issues topics at the meeting. This portion of the meeting allows for impromptu speaking and should be offered to members who do not have roles, or do not have large roles such as the evaluators. The Table Topics Master should be brief in introductions, and should also keep in mind that the meeting is run according to a set timeframe. A table topic recipient is allotted 1 to 2 minutes to respond to the given topic.


  1. The Table Topics Master faces the challenge of coming up with topics that are educational, inspirational, and will engage the audience. Some ways to combat this challenge are to refer to interesting articles or quotes. Also, refer to the Toastmaster magazine for some suggestions for topics. Keep a file to store these great ideas in!
  2. Find out before the meeting which members do not have any role that evening and evaluators. After this, be sure to invite the guests for a try.
  3. Speak to the Chair beforehand and find out if there is a theme for the meeting to create topics that will complement this theme (this route is optional). A helpful hint to guarantee a smoothly run Table Topics session when there are guests at the meeting is to choose the Table Topics recipients beforehand. Present your topic to the guests, to ensure that they would be interested in delivering a response.


During the Table Topics session you are the “master!” It is important to sustain a welcoming and encouraging environment. When calling upon a speaker, remember to shake their hand and lead the clapping until they have made their way to the lectern, and when they have finished speaking. The Table Topics session provides the opportunity to improve a vital communications skill–impromptu speaking. As Table Topics Master, aim for a balance between insightful, educational topics, that are also humorous and interesting. The number of speakers that you call up during the table topics session should correspond with the time schedule of the meeting.

Table Topics (TT)

Table Topics are the impromptu portion of the meeting. They work according to the following procedure; The Table Topics master will present a question to the group. Then he/she will choose a person (without a role, with a minor speaking role, or a guest) to attempt to answer the question. That person comes to the front of the room and has one minute to formulate a response.

Whether you are a novice or advanced speaker, participating in table topics can be nerve wracking! Table Topics practices the skill of impromptu speaking which comes in handy in job interviews, coming up with impromptu toasts, as well as many other aspects of daily communication.

Here are a few helpful hints…

  • Use your time coming from your seat to the lectern to formulate ideas.
  • Use delaying strategies such as thanking the Table Topics Master, and repeating the topic, before you begin your response to the topic.
  • If you can not form an answer, try to modify the question/topic so that you can respond to it.
  • State your opinion or theme from the outset.
  • Come up with a few key points that you know of on the subject.
  • Toward the end of your response briefly conclude/summarize the main points you have covered.
  • Watch the timing device because table topics are very short and you have a maximum of 2 minutes to complete your response.


1 minute, 1.5 minutes, 2 minutes

“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” – Robert Frost

The Table Topics Evaluator (TTE)


The Table Topics Evaluator provides feedback on the presentations of Table Topics’ speakers.


There are many sources of reference for executing effective evaluations. (See Guide to Effective Evaluation, p. 16.) Also, the Toastmasters’ Communications and Leadership Manual and monthly magazine provide helpful hints for evaluating speakers.


During the Table Topics Session, remember to stay focused on the presenters’ speaking style. For instance, watch for the speakers’ movements, stance, voice modulation, eye contact, and usage of English. When evaluating a speaker, using the sandwich method is very effective. The “sandwich method” refers to providing a commendation, followed by a recommendation, followed by a commendation.


3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes

The Speaker (SP)

There are usually two speakers with prepared speeches at each meeting.


The Speaker presents his/her speech in the second segment of the meeting. The Speaker is at the core of the Toastmaster’s club, because it involves presenting a formal, prepared speech. There are 10 speeches in the first manual (the Communication and Leadership Manual) that you will work on.


  1. Refer to the speech manual (each member will be at a different stage in their speaking progression, and therefore, may not be using the same manual).
  2. Discuss any concerns or areas you would like to improve upon with your mentor and speech your evaluator.
  3. Practice, practice, practice!


Try to stay calm and focused, and within the given time frame. (You will not be clapped down in the Ice-breaker speech, so don’t worry!).


Speech #1 (Ice-breaker): 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes
Speeches #2-9: 5 minutes, 6 minutes, 7 minutes
Speech #10: 8 minutes, 9 minutes, 10 minutes

The (Prepared) Speech Evaluator (SE)


The Prepared Speech Evaluators are responsible for providing feedback for the presenters of the prepared speeches (each speech will be evaluated by a different prepared speech evaluator).

A typical meeting usually has two prepared speeches and one evaluator for each of those speeches (see Agenda on Welcome page).


  1. Find out if there are any concerns and areas that the speaker would like you to focus on in your evaluation.
  2. Refer to the guide to effective evaluations on p16.
  3. Ask a more experienced member about borrowing their Evaluation manual that they received from Toastmasters International.


As a Prepared Speech Evaluator, stay focused on the speakers’ movements, stance, voice modulation, eye-contact, use of English, and any particular areas they wanted to be monitored. Also, use the sandwich method: a commendation, followed by a recommendation, followed by a commendation.


2 minutes, 2.5 minutes, 3 minutes
* Only for speeches from the Communications and Leadership manual

The General Evaluator (GE)


The General Evaluator is responsible for providing feedback for all speakers who have not been evaluated. This includes those with roles such as: the Chair, Table Topics Master, Table Topics Evaluator, Prepared Speech Evaluators, Timer and Grammarian. Furthermore, the General Evaluator might sit beside the Timer to ensure the meeting runs on time.


  1. See Guide to Effective Evaluations on p 16
  2. Refer to evaluating suggestions that can be found in the Communications and Leadership manual, and the Toastmasters Magazine.


As General Evaluator, watch for each speakers movements, stance, voice modulation, eye-contact, use of English, and any particular areas they wanted to be monitored. Also, use the sandwich method: a commendation, followed by a recommendation, followed by a commendation. Be sure to give specific examples for the recommendations and commendations you make.


7 minutes, 8 minutes, 9 minutes

“One specific is worth a thousand generalities.” – J. Lyman MacInnis

The Grammarian (GR)

[incorporates tasks from the defunct Wordmaster role]


The Grammarian monitors all the speakers’ usage of English. The Grammarian’s role is crucial to a Toastmaster’s improvement by providing feedback on the members’ incorrect usage of English. The Grammarian should commend speakers for impressive phrases or vocabulary, in addition to counting ‘ums’ and ‘ahs,’ and other inappropriate filler words. It is acceptable for speakers to pause in order to allow the listeners to absorb their words instead of using ‘ums.’

The Grammarian is also responsible for introducing a interesting (preferably not so frequently used) word to the meeting.  This is significant because it broadens our vocabularies.


  1. Find out if there is a theme for the meeting (contact the Chair).
  2. Prepare the word, and write it legibly on a piece of paper or cardboard so that the members will he able to see it from the lectern (or presentation screen). Provide the word’s definition and an example of how the word can be used in a sentence. As well, may also provide the origin, history or a story about the word.

The Grammarian may also bring a reference aid to the meeting, such as a dictionary or other grammar text sources.


Presents the chosen word at the meeting just before Table Topics and encourages members to use it throughout the meeting.

An example:


  • Definition: Genuine, Legitimate, Permissible, Proper
  • Origin/History (optional): An adjective that comes from the Hebrew word kasher, which means fit or proper.
  • Example: The teacher thought it wasn’t kosher for her students to talk during her lesson.

Similar to the Timer’s role, the Grammarian needs to stay focused while everyone speakers, for better or for worse.

Time (for just presenting the chosen word)

1 to 2 minutes

The Timer (T)


The Timer keeps track of the length of the presentations for the Table Topics Master,  Table Topics Evaluator, Speakers, Speech Evaluations, Grammarian and the General Evaluation.


  1. It is imperative that the Timer is aware of the amount of time allotted to each speaking role. Make a note of these times as a reference during the meeting.
  2. Ensure that the timing device is working.


The Timer’s role requires alertness and focus. It is very easy to loose track of the time by getting involved in what the speakers are saying. Timing the speeches must be the Timer’s first priority. The General Evaluator might sit next to the Timer, to ensure that the meeting runs on time. If the speakers are over time it is the Timer’s responsibility to clap down the speaker (15 seconds for table topics, 30 seconds for all other speaking roles), unless it is an ice-breaker speech.


  • Minor roles that are part of Toastmasters tradition and maybe added to the meeting agenda (at the last minute) when there is a large number of (more than 13) members in attendance.  Duties from these roles may also be integrated to the above major roles or carried out by executives.

The Wordmaster (WM)

A currently defunct role with its duty integrated into Grammarian.

The Jokemaster (JM)


The Jokemaster presents an acceptable joke to lighten the mood of the meeting.


Jokes can be found on the Internet, in newspapers, and in magazines. Or, go for originality and create your own joke.


Make people laugh!


1 minute, 1.5 minutes, 2 minutes

The Snackmaster (SM)


The Snackmaster is responsible for bringing a light snack to the meeting. This includes bringing the appropriate condiments. As Snackmaster, you will be asked to introduce your snack before the break. This is a time to relish the popularity you will receive as Snackmaster!

Currently, the duties of a snackmaster are usually fulfilled by the executives (such as the President and Sergent-at-Arms) at certain special occasion meetings such as an openhouse event at the beginning of the semester (four month academic cycle) or a final meeting near the end of the semester.

The Toastmaster (TM)


The Toastmaster presents a toast at the start of the second half of the meeting, and is responsible for introducing the speakers of the formal speeches and the speech evaluators. A Toastmaster’s objective is twofold: to provide an enlightening toast, whether it have a philosophical or humorous focus; and, to sustain a positive attitude and encouraging environment, as the chair for the second segment of the meeting.


  1. Find out if there is a theme for the meeting.
  2. Phone the Speakers and Speech Evaluators 2 or 3 days in advance to remind them.
  3. Prepare a short introduction for your toast, and then propose the toast in 4 words or less. (For example, “I propose a toast to good health and prosperity”)
  4. Provide introductions for the Speakers, and Speech Evaluators.
  5. Tell the timer the exact times for all speakers.
  6. Lead the clapping for all speakers.


From the outset, the Toastmaster should emanate enthusiasm and encouragement. The Toastmaster is introduced by the chair at the beginning of the second half of the meeting. The Toastmaster hands the meeting back to the chair at the end of the Speech Evaluations, before the General Evaluation. As Toastmaster, remember to provide bridging between presentations, and to ensure that the meeting is running on schedule.

Currently, this time-honored traditional role has been compacted and integrated into the duties of the Chair, who is responsible for the introductions of the speakers and their respective evaluators.


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