The timer role in Toastmasters chapter meetings is an important role and shouldn't be taken for granted. Obviously the person handling the role will ultimately determine the pass/fail status of the speaker's project – not the evaluator and grammarian who merely evaluates how did the project went. In addition the Timer plays a bigger unwritten role to ensure that everyone goes home on time, which is quite important since the meeting participants may have families waiting at home or another agenda to complete for the day.
A good way to play the timer's role successfully is to have a timer sheet. This is a simple table prepared from the meeting's agenda that lists the planned speeches along with their timings. This sheet could be prepared by the Sergeant-At-Arms who also prepares the meeting's agenda or the Timer herself prepares it herself.
Typically the row headings of a Toastmasters Timer Sheet mirrors the contents of the agenda and contains:
- The Speech Type – Meeting Address, Table Topics, Project, Evaluation, and Announcements.
- The Orator/Speaker Name – that is, who are planned to deliver that particular speech.
- The Speech Title – This normally applies for Projects although it can also apply for Table Topics speeches.
- Time Marks – How long the speech should last – minimum time (Green flag), warning time (Yellow flag), and maximum time (Red flag).
- Actual Time - How long the speech actually lasted. If a stopwatch is not available, this can also be recorded as Start Time and End Time – the duration is obtained by subtracting the two.
This looks like a lot of materials to prepare. Not really if you already have a pre-made Toastmasters timer sheet. In fact, we have one that you can freely download and use in your own speech club. Simply enter your name and e-mail address below to get a free PDF copy of our timer sheet for use in your Toastmasters chapter meetings.
Few roles in Toastmasters chapter meetings are more thankless than that of the timer. Not only you lose the opportunity to just sit and enjoy the speeches the way you’d like, but you also have the responsibility of helping the speaker keep to the time limit. If the speech gets too interesting, and you lost track of time then you might miss to give the speaker the cue that he needs.
That is why you need to use the Speech Timer iPhone App when you are assigned the Toastmasters timekeeper role. The large, colored time indicator of the Speech Timer App allows the timer to listen to the speech while keeping an eye on the time. The large numbers enable the timer to check the time with his peripheral vision. The phone also vibrates with each color change, so you won’t forget to lift it so that the speaker can see the color. The device will also continue to time even if a phone call comes in or another app is running. You don’t have to worry about an untimely caller causing a disruption to the timing of your speeches.No longer you have to make yet another set of temporary signal cards when someone forgets the green/yellow/red time signal cards or borrow someone's watch when the Sergeant-At-Arms forgot to take the official stopwatch with him.
The Speech Timer App addresses both the inconvenience of the timer who would like to pay more attention to the speeches by allowing speeches to be timed without having to stare at a stopwatch and hoping that the Sergeant-At-Arms remembers to bring the special colored time signal cards. This application takes care of all of these by conveniently putting all of the duties of the timer in one place as an application on your iPhone, or iPod touch.
Speech Timer also allows you to use custom speech types. While the most popular speech types (table top, prepared speeches of different lengths, etc.) are already pre-defined, if you are doing a different type of speech than the preloaded ones, you can set the parameters yourself. The large, colored time indicators make the time easy to see at a glance. You can keep track of all of the speakers of the night by allowing you to input the name of the speaker so that the information of each speech can be exported via email in several forms. This feature alone saves the time it takes to record the information and organize it separately. It also makes it very easy to quickly communicate statistics to each of the members.
Another benefit of having the Speech Timer App in your possession at all times also enables you to practice at home, using the same timing mechanism that you will see during his actual speech. Having multiple members of your club with this App also helps you to have a backup at all times. From the speaker of the day’s perspective, having the same application being used by each timer also creates a sense of continuity, giving the speaker the ability to better anticipate what his time signals might look like, so that he will be better prepared.
We are all looking for ways to make our lives easier, and this app is a way to do that for your speeches. It is truly a must-have for any Toastmasters member or really anybody who does public speaking.
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.
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.