Leading a Club Meeting for the First Time


I’m a speechwriter and executive communications expert. For many years I’ve been behind the scenes, cheering for my speakers from the sidelines. But when I started my own business, Thoughtful Speech, I knew I’d spend a lot more time on the podium myself. So to brush up my skills I joined my local Toastmasters club in San Francisco.

After completing my first couple of speeches, I decided it was time to take on the role of Toastmaster of the meeting (often called Toastmaster of the Day). My mentor and other club members were generous with their advice, and the experience gave me new insight into how the meetings work, the effort that goes on behind the scenes and the elements that lead to a successful meeting.

Here are my top 10 tips for being a first-time Toastmaster of the meeting:

1. Set the meeting theme at least a week in advance.
It will help you hold a more coherent meeting, because those with speaking roles will have time to incorporate the theme into their speech. Encourage the Topicsmaster to tie the theme into his or her role too.

2. Send a reminder email about the meeting the week before the event.
It will help you to know who’s attending, and people appreciate an early heads-up. When you email speakers, ask them to provide the title of their speech and a short introduction.

3. Match speaker with evaluator.
Try to match people of similar levels. But if someone is giving an Ice Breaker, try to pair them with a member who has been an evaluator at least once before. They deserve a good evaluation and it will motivate them to deliver more speeches. Try to plan this fairly early, and alert speakers and evaluators to any changes so they can communicate with each other before the meeting.

4. Double-check pronunciation.
Arrive a little earlier than usual so you can confirm the pronunciation of names of those who are on the meeting agenda. Even if you think you know how to say their names, check again.

5. Pay close attention to time.
Make sure all the starting and ending times on the agenda are listed correctly, and keep the meeting moving. You don’t want Toastmasters tapping their feet because the meeting ran over.

6. Lead the applause.
People will take their cue from you, so make sure you know when to clap, and carry the rest of the room with you.

7. Remind yourself of the other meeting role responsibilities.
That way, if the timer or grammarian or Ah-Counter makes a mistake, you can correct it quickly.

8. Keep your meeting introduction brief.
Remember, you also have to introduce guests at the meeting, and that often takes longer than expected. If there are a lot of guests, ask them to say just a couple of sentences about who they are and why they came to the meeting.

9. Check in with the member responsible for food.
In my Toastmasters club, we serve snacks 10 minutes before the start of the meeting. If your club does something similar, check that the person responsible for bringing food has remembered they signed up for the role—because there’s nothing worse than a room full of hungry Toastmasters!

10. Speak to your mentor.
Your mentor will be the best source of advice, tips and tricks to get you through the meeting. I strongly suggest having a conversation, either in person or on the phone, because things tend to arise that you might forget to ask in an email. It’s also worth asking this person to take a look at your agenda. He or she will be able to give you a fresh perspective as well as the wisdom of experience.

About the Author

Felicity Barber

is a member of the Rhino Business Toastmasters club in San Francisco. She is a speechwriter, executive communications specialist and coach, and the CEO and founder of Thoughtful Speech (http://thoughtfulspeech.com).