December 2008

iPhone Toastmasters Speech Timer

In one of my previous day jobs (yes, I still have one and no, writing iPhone apps doesn’t make you filthy rich) we had an in-house Toastmasters club where I was a member. The company provides the space for us to hold our meetings, hence the term "in-house".


Toastmasters is a special interest group where the members practice public speaking. They have meetings usually every week or fortnightly for members to practice. These groups are governed by a central organization called Toastmasters International (TI).

TI issues credentials to members who have completed a certain number of project. As speakers become more skillful, TI will have more challenging projects for them and matching credentials for completing them.

In Toastmasters meetings there are several pre-defined roles that needs to be filled by the members apart from the ones who does the speaking. One of such role is
the Timer’s role – the person in charge will need to keep track speeches and ensure that they are not under-timed or over-timed.

As outlined by TI speeches have a pre-set minimum and maximum time limits. Thus
the Timer typically uses two gadgets: a stopwatch and a signaling device which is a set of large cards colored in Green, Yellow, and Red. As the speech progresses, the timer will hold up the Green card signaling that the speech has met the required minimum time. Somewhere in the middle she will hold up a Yellow card which tells the speaker to finish up his speech. When the she holds up a Red card, the speaker will have to complete in about 30 seconds or risk disqualification.

When I play the Timer’s role, at times
the speeches were too good such that I forgot to keep my eye on the stopwatch and signal the time. It happened several times just after I hold up the Green card, the speech was so interesting that I forgot to hold up the Yellow card and then I immediately picked up the Red card signaling imminent overtime. Fortunately those didn’t happen in speaking contests or otherwise people would get really mad at me.
Another mishaps that often happen is that we forgot to take the colored Green, Yellow, Red cards with us. Then it becomes really awkward – if we’re lucky enough to find blank paper sheets and fluorescent highlighters with the proper colors, we’re good to go. Otherwise we have to resort to awkward methods of signaling the time.

So these two problems became the primary motivators why I made Speech Timer. Speech Timer for iPhone has large colored and positional lights that I can peek with my peripheral vision – so that I can maintain eye contact with the speaker. Whenever the light changes color it beeps (or vibrates on the iPhone). Also I can double my iPod touch to function as the colored cards without hassle — just hold it up straight and the entire display will change to the appropriate Green, Yellow, or Red color.

Of course as any other decent Toastmasters timer software it holds a set of different timer settings for the different speech types that may be held in a session. It comes pre-configured with the common speech types and timings that we use in our club – and you can change it should the defaults doesn’t suit you or add some of your own. Furthermore it keeps a log of speech histories by day so that it frees the timer from noting down which speaker took which time. This is quite important since at the end of each session, there will be a Timer’s report saying which speaker took how much time and whether he is qualified for an award. Additionally you can send out a Timer's report via e-mail to all the people involved in the session.

I guess that’s just about it. Thanks for reading this and
look up Speech Timer in iTunes store and let me know what you think of it. I do hope that you buy it though. If you’re a reviewer, you can ask for a promotion code to get the app for free.