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June 2024
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Last-Minute Scramble

By James Sultan, DTM, PID

It’s an hour before your meeting starts, you’re the Toastmaster of the Day and you’ve just received word that two of your three speakers can’t make the meeting. Suddenly, you’re faced with a last-minute scramble! How can you ensure a successful meeting? Many of the following ideas I’ve gleaned by observing Toast­masters clubs around the world:


Add slots to your meeting assignments, such as the roles of backup Toastmaster, speaker and General Evaluator, to ensure members are prepared to fill those roles at the last minute. Some clubs have a “hot seat” role where one member can fill any vacancy; try having two or three “hot seat” slots.


Encourage members to always have a manual speech prepared. Those who are called on to speak at the last minute will have the advantage of moving through the education program more rapidly.


During club officer meetings, create lists of activities that the Toastmaster can use to fill extra time in any meeting. This is especially helpful for less experienced Toastmasters.


Have each officer commit to fill a space, as needed, by presenting from The Successful Club Series or The Better Speaker Series.


If you have advanced notice and your district has a Speakers Bureau, or you know of speakers from other clubs who wish to expand their audience, invite someone as a guest speaker.


Invite a contest winner or speech contestant to present or practice their speech.


If at all possible, never cancel a meeting! I have attended excellent meetings where only three or four members are present.


When members see how organized your meeting is, even with last-minute cancellations, they will understand how Toastmasters trains leaders to operate in adverse situations. 

By having cohesive, informative and enjoyable meetings, even in situations like these, member satisfaction and morale will remain high and member retention may improve. Guests will experience well-organized and professionally presented programs, and that could lead to new members. Plan ahead to ensure your club will operate smoothly and thrive—in any situation.


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