April 2011

What are the duties of a Toastmasters timer?

The timer role in a Toastmasters meeting ensures that all speeches are paced appropriately. For example, table topics speeches are usually one to two minutes long. Table topics speeches that are less than one minute will not be qualified as a speech whereas the speech timer is obligated to stop table topics speeches that are longer than three minutes.
In addition, the person playing the role must also record the
speech durations in a Toastmasters timer sheet. This sheet will be reported at the end of the meeting along with the report of the grammarian (which reports the “ah count” among others).
Although it sounds simple, time keeping is really a demanding task.
The person will need to concentrate to keep track of everyone’s names, speech titles and speaking durations. Furthermore, it requires a lot of stage time. The time keeper must explain the rules at the beginning and present the timer keeper’s report after each major chunk of the meeting. That is one report each after the table topics sessions, the prepared speeches and the evaluations.
The timer’s report is very well defined so the role is an excellent opportunity for new members to get used to being on stage without worry about the details of the contents of the speech.
Despite requiring a lot of concentration, the role is rather mechanical. Since you simply fill in the blanks of a templated speech, you will unlikely to make any embarrassing mistakes. The worst mistake is that you could forget to start the stopwatch or signal the timer’s flags.
Ensure the timings in the agenda are correct
As the time keeper you will be responsible for signaling how much time the speaker has left. You do this using three signals: green for the minimum time; yellow for the midpoint between the minimum and maximum times; and red for the maximum time. You should note these time marks in the meeting agenda. Make that the timings are complete and correct.
Sound the signal
If a speech continues beyond the red signal then the speaker has a short period to wrap up and get off the stage. In Toastmasters competitions this period is fixed at thirty seconds. After this time you should signal that it is time to end, usually by knocking or sounding a horn. It is important that individuals speak within a bounded time to practice for the competitions and prevent the meeting overrunning. The one exception to this is icebreakers, newbie speakers could be very nervous and should be given as much time as they need.
Correctly pronounce names
The time keeper role is often given to new members. They may not be familiar with all of the members at the club and may not have met the guests. As a result I often see time keepers (and other functionaries) mispronouncing people’s names during the reports. This could be irritating for the people concerned so I recommend asking the meeting master to read you the names of all the people participating in the table topics section, and clarify the names of anyone on the agenda. Jot down the phonetic spelling of any names that you may have difficulty.