Guide to Assignments

Timer | Grammarian | Speaker | Toastmaster | Table Topics Master
General Evaluator
| Listening / Quiz Master

The Timer

One of the skills learned in Toastmasters is how to conduct the meeting or deliver an assignment or speech within a strict time frame. Therefore, the meeting timer is a necessary and important aid to assist us in developing this skill.

  • Make certain that the timing device is working correctly.
  • Have a list of the assignments, and those members who are to deliver them and record every part of the meeting.
  • Keep a close watch on those areas where the meeting appears to fall behind time and incorporate that in your report at the end of the meeting. For example, it may be that most of the time was lost during the table topics session. This may be due to an excessive number of topics or that the topics themselves were too lengthy.
  • Remember that your report is a valuable part of the evaluation process and it is vital that you provide feedback to the speakers so that they may be aware of any timing problems that need to be redressed.

The Grammarian

The grammarian is present to point out the misuse or abuse of word usage, grammar and pronunciation to assist us in developing a better grasp and usage of the English language. This applies to all meeting participants except guests. During the meeting listen carefully and report on any misuse of words, incorrect pronunciation, overuse of clichés, poor sentence construction, improper use of slang unnecessary repetition, etc.

You do not have to be an English scholar to perform this assignment. Most of all, the grammarian should always look for points of praise for excellent use of the language.

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The Speaker

Preparation is essential to success when you are the speaker. Every speech should be well prepared and rehearsed to ensure quality. Remember that Club members learn from one another’s speeches. Every speaker is a role model. Prior to the meeting:

  • Check to see that you are programmed to speak.
  • To gain the most from the Toastmaster’s programme, plan to speak from your manual.
  • If possible, present the speeches in numerical order.
  • If possible, speak to your evaluator and share with him/her which manual speech you will be giving and discuss with them the goals you hope to achieve and personal concerns you might have about the delivery.
  • Remember to have your speech manual with you at the meeting.

Prior to Speaking:

  • Check microphones, lighting, etc early. Protect yourself from any problems that may spoil your presentation.
  • Give your manual to your evaluator.
  • Make certain that you have introductory information for the Toastmaster who is to introduce you.
  • Plan your approach to the lectern or speaking area.
  • Make certain that the Toastmaster has arranged the speaking area for you (whether or not you need the lectern and how it should be placed). Any other matters required (props etc).

When introduced:

  • Don’t leave yourself with a hike to the lectern. You know you are about to be introduced so be nearby ready to walk on.
  • Near the beginning of the speech, acknowledge the audience and/or the Toastmaster.
  • Never thank the audience – they will thank you with applause.

The Toastmaster

Ideally, the Toastmaster will contact the speakers before the meeting to ascertain particulars of the speech and the relevant information each speaker desires in their introduction.

  • Obtain all the details of the speaker and speech as early as possible. This includes the title of the speech, the number of the speech (if the speech is from a manual), and the timing.
  • You also need to ask each speaker for any special requirements that they may have – e.g. do they require the lectern? If so, how do they want it placed. Will they be using props or visuals and what assistance do they need with them?

In other words, you as the Toastmaster must act as the stage manager so that the speaker simply has to walk to their speaking area and begin their presentation. You will have already obtained the details of the information the speaker wants to reveal in your introduction of them.

  • Do not use any other information as it may be revealing part of what is contained in the speech (an experienced speaker usually has this information in printed form ready to hand to you prior to the introduction).
  • If the speech is from one of the manuals it will have certain objectives. Introduce the evaluator and ask him/her to read the objectives of the speech to the audience. This helps the audience to understand the reasons for the speech the speaker is seeking.
  • Advise the timer of the timing of the speech and demonstrate the timing procedure.
  • Introduce the speakers and welcome them to the lectern.
  • Lead the applause – which should continue until the speaker reaches his/her speaking area.
  • Shake the speaker’s hand (unless they have specifically requested you not to), then retire to a seat close by – but NOT behind the speaker.
  • At the conclusion of the speech/speeches introduce the evaluator/s.

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The Table Topics Masters

The selection of the topics to be asked is of your own choice. However, some advice….

  • Try to make the topics relate to one theme (particularly if the meeting agenda has a theme).
  • Don’t make the preamble to each question too long – the responder may lose track before they are asked to answer.
  • Don’t make them too difficult to answer – it is not a quiz show!
  • Prior to the meeting prepare three lists
    • questions to be asked
    • odd numbered topics, and
    • even numbered topics (the last two are given to the evaluators on the night for their guidance).

The session:

  • Begin your session by stating the reason for the table topics session (importance of impromptu speaking practice).
  • Announce the timing and the name of the evaluators and the theme you have chosen.
  • Always deliver the topic before naming the person to answer it. This has the effect of making everyone think about an answer and keeps everyone on their toes!
  • You only need 8-10 topics (because of the time allotted).
  • Those who have major roles for the evening should be exempt (speakers, workshop presenter, general evaluator, etc).
  • Visitors should never be asked unless by prior arrangement.
  • End your session by introducing each of the evaluators (in turn) and inviting them to the lectern to deliver their evaluations.
  • Thank everyone for participating and then return the meeting to the Chairman.

The General Evaluator

The purpose of this assignment is to ensure that all those who have carried out an assignment during the meeting (but not evaluated), get immediate feedback on their performance. There is no need to evaluate those who responded to a table topic nor those who delivered set speeches. However, it is important that you evaluate the evaluators and ensure that they have given the speakers an effective evaluation. As a guide, you should comment on the following:

  • The meeting
    • did it begin on time
    • was it lively and entertaining, friendly or serious
    • were members on time
    • did it meet the members’ needs
  • The minor assignments
    • were they well presented
    • did they reflect adequate preparation
  • Table topics
    • was the topics master well prepared
    • were the topics suitable
  • Education sessions
    • was one presented
    • how well did it meet the needs of the members
  • The program
    • was the program interesting and well prepared
    • was it worth the time spent on it
    • did it demonstrate variety and allow for entertainment
  • The audience
    • were they attentive, co-operative, entertained
    • did they have fun
  • The evaluators
    • were the table topics evaluators helpful (did they give points for improvement)
    • were the evaluators of the set speeches constructive (they must build self-esteem), how would you further evaluate the evaluators
  • The chairman
    • how well was the meeting conducted
    • did the chairman maintain control
    • did the chairman facilitate a smooth transition between each of the assignments when introducing them
  • The results
    • was the meeting such as to induce visitors to become members
    • was the meeting such as to induce visitors to bring friends
    • was there a high point of the evening

The general evaluator should realize that his/her evaluations are his/her opinions according to the guidelines of Toastmasters International.

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Listening / Quiz Master

The motto of Toastmasters International is “Better Listening, Better Thinking, Better Speaking.” The order of these attributes was not chosen at random. Active and effective listening is recognized as the primary requisite in the communication process and rightly deserves its first place. As with any other skill, our listening skills can be honed with practice and it is for this reason that it is a feature of the Toastmaster’s meeting. Therefore, it is your task to challenge the members and test their listening skills.

  • Listen carefully to the speeches and other assignments during the meeting and frame a number of questions from what has been said (6-8 questions should be sufficient in a 2 minute assignment).
  • When you are called to the lectern to deliver this assignment, it is recommended that (in a few words), you remind the audience as to why the assignment is on the program.
  • Ask your questions remembering to direct each question to one specific person (after you have posed the question).
  • Only if that person is unable to answer it do you invite an answer from anyone else.
  • Questions beginning with “who said”, “what was”, “how many”, “where did/was”, etc are suggested.

Other Assignments

There are many other assignments on our program from time to time and the members are invited to be creative and put their own interpretation on the presentation of them.

Download a copy of the Guide to Assignments  (PDF 178kb)

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