Mr Toastmaster Revisited

My experience of being Toastmaster (or the host) at my club’s Toastmaster meetings has always been interesting. I’ve now performed the role for the fourth time. Each time I felt slightly different:

  • The first time was about getting through it.
  • The second time was about doing it better than the first time.
  • The third time was about trying to become comfortable.
  • The fourth time felt a little like the third time because a number of challenges came up but I also felt more confident.

Interestingly, the first and second times, I don’t recall there being any external challenges. For the third (see Mr Toastmaster … (part 2)) and fourth times there were. Both included a last minute change of venue and both featured speakers that failed to show, including two late functionaries in the case of the fourth performance.

Initially I was a bit hard on myself for my performance as I felt there were things I could have done before the meeting and during the meeting’s break to smooth things out.

Sure there were, and I will be more prepared the next time I perform the Toastmaster role, because on the fourth performance I was paying attention to what didn’t work well. I also contrasted how I felt overall, what I felt went right, and what I felt didn’t go so well to the third time I performed the role of Toastmaster to put things into perspective.

One of the significant things I said as far as keeping things in perspective is concerned, was that I needed to do the role a few more times to increase my skill, confidence and ability at performing the role of Toastmaster. And by doing that I’ll also increase my skill at handling whatever occasional challenges crop up quickly and efficiently!

So what could I improve (a mix of my own feelings and comments from the audience and general evaluator)?

  • Prepare a better introduction. I had prepared an intro that included some background information on Toastmasters. That background information should only have served as backup in case the President didn’t say it. The background was mentioned quite thoroughly that evening. So I had to improvise a little.
  • Cover my main points even if the President has partially done so. Our President (on this occasion a stand-in) mentioned one of the three points I’d intended to cover – applause. Following this I decided I didn’t want to be redundant by mentioning applause again, or sound awkward by mentioning the other two points – handshake and voting slips, in isolation. Especially when handshake is connected to applause. But as the event went on the need for this quickly became apparant as our table topics master neither lead the applause or shook hands with each topic speaker. At that point it became awkwardly obvious to me that being redundant is fantastic if it achieves the desired result! And on top of that, I’m simply performing my role correctly by mentioning what I’m supposed to mention.
  • I was a bit flummoxed by starting the meeting with our table topics master, GE, and two speakers absent. So I then had to immediately find stand ins for the first two. (The former two were running late and one of the speakers had got struck down with a cold.)
  • Some extended voting periods during the speaker part of the evening while I sorted out the speaker and evaluator slots, including an improvised speech. This I could have comfortably dealt with during the preceding break and it would have kept the momentum going more strongly.

That was pretty much it, four things.

There was one more, which came about as a result of me taking a minute or two to add in some interesting facts about Toastmasters before closing the first half of the meeting, and to ask for some feedback on my performance as Toastmaster during the second half, on both occasions mentioning that we were running ahead of time.

We never usually request feedback for the Toastmaster, but I’m going to recommend we start doing so as space is provided for it on our ballot slips. It would also be helpful to the Toastmaster to get a general opinion on how the audience felt they performed.

So what was that last thing? Our General Evaluator quipped that I shouldn’t feel the need to fill in free time if we’re running ahead of schedule, as it’s eating into his “drinking time!” That was a laugh out loud moment for everyone, myself included. And then he made himself just as guilty by running over time too! I agreed with his point to an extent.

Where I disagree is that I wasn’t trying to fill up all the free time, but just to add a little interesting filler, which in no way would make up for the minutes freed up by a missing speech and the corresponding speech evaluation, and I believe these things were done within my allotted time anyway. What I would avoid doing next time is saying that we’re running ahead of time until I announce the break or before handing the meeting to the President to close. It sounds like a bonus to the audience that way!

So what were my commendations?

  • Gave a strong welcome
  • Good stage presence
  • Kept energy going
  • Fine tuned programme
  • Good timekeeping
  • Good links between introducing functionaries and speakers
  • Remembered all names
  • Introduced humour
  • Appeared confident
  • Strong clear voice

Some of those things were repeated by more than one person. These comments support my feelings that I am definitely getting the hang of this. And lately I’ve really begun to appreciate the fact that there is more to Toastmasters than delivering speeches.

I believe there’s a common perception that you join Toastmasters to develop your public speaking skills. I was guilty of this myself before I first visited a Toastmasters club to find out how things work. Sure there is that, but there’s a lot more than that to gain from the Toastmasters buffet!

Getting involved in the functionary roles is a great way to learn, to give back to your club and to inspire and encourage all those who will follow in your footsteps (and often even those who came before you)! If your profession is in a leadership or managerial role, this is a great way to practice and develop those skills.

Why not learn how to become a confident host? Why not learn how to do great warm ups? Why not learn how to give constructive feedback that helps someone perform to a higher standard, feel encouraged and supported all at the same time? Why not have the opportunity to practice developing your skills in these things as often as you like in a mutually supportive environment. Why not develop your public speaking, communication, leadership and managerial skills so that you can feel confident every time you have to speak or take on a role at a business, work, or social function? Why not join Toastmasters and learn how to do exactly that?