Visit St. Vladimir Toastmasters in Toronto and you can watch the Quiz Master test members’ listening skills. At Friends Club Toastmasters in Manama, Bahrain, the Mystery Greeter will make sure you’re welcomed warmly. Sign on to the Online Presenters Club for the Watcher’s tips on your use of the virtual meeting space.
You may find members performing similar duties at other Toastmasters meetings, but you won’t find these roles listed in The Navigator or Toastmasters International’s other official handbooks. They’re among many non-traditional roles that add fresh ways of developing members’ skills.
There’s no requirement that functionaries be limited to the traditional Ah-Counter, General Evaluator, and timer described in the organization’s handbooks. If your meeting agenda is starting to feel routine and predictable, adding a custom role or two is a simple way to spice things up. Here’s how a number of clubs add their own signature.
Some roles are added to dig a little deeper into the education program. Dublin South Toastmasters, in Dublin, Ireland, assigns a member to briefly explain a Pathways path in a minute or so.
“We found it very important, as Toastmasters was transitioning from the traditional education program to Pathways, to communicate with members around what their options are and what the different paths mean from an educational perspective,” says Vice President Membership Peter Golden.
Since members had a number of questions about Pathways last year (when it became Toastmasters’ official education program), this meeting role was highly beneficial, Golden adds, noting that many club members chose their path from the Pathways descriptions provided in each meeting.
Speakers Forum, an advanced club in Northern California, is one of many that added the Education Minute Master (EMM). “The EMM gives a short talk, ideally two to three minutes, on some educational topic,” says club member George Marshall, DTM. “Topics have included how to write the beginning or end of a speech, advice on presentation techniques, and explaining some aspect of club procedures.
“The members learn something about the offered topic, and the EMM gets to practice doing a succinct information session. Any member is eligible to do these, but it is usually an officer or one of the more experienced members.”
Speakers Forum also has an Evaluation Leader, a different take on the General Evaluator. The Evaluation Leader facilitates a round-robin feedback session—where all or many members offer comments rather than just one evaluator—after each speaker. Like many other clubs, Speakers Forum also has a Joke Master (more on that later).
Friends Club, the Toastmasters group in Bahrain, assigns a Leadership Evaluator to monitor how well members practice leadership skills. The evaluator chooses a leadership skill such as critical thinking, time management, or mentoring, and gives general feedback on its use in the meeting.
They’ll Be Watching You (and Listening)
Friends Club is one of many that assign members to keep their eyes (and ears) open during meetings. “We have a Mystery Greeter tasked to report if all members were welcoming and friendly during the meeting,” says Nomel Gilongos, DTM, a Friends Past President. “The Mystery Greeter checks if members help create a positive first impression for all guests and members.”
Center Berlin Toastmasters in Germany has had a Listener role since forming in 2015. “The Listener role is a well-established tradition in Berlin clubs,” says Club President Mascha Logačeva. “It is a challenging role which helps us develop the skill of attention to detail.” The Listener quizzes members to see how well they listened to each speaker. “It brings a lot of energy to our meetings. Everyone shouts out their answers” (after unmuting their Zoom microphones).
“The Listener role is a well-established tradition in Berlin clubs. It is a challenging role which helps us develop the skill of attention to detail.”–Mascha Logačeva
Center Berlin Listeners has taken various approaches, including that of one member who structured the session like a game of Jeopardy!—the member shared the answers and the rest of the club had to come up with the questions.
Quiz Master is a coveted role at St. Vladimir Toastmasters, in Ontario, Canada, says Club Secretary Matthew Kleinosky, DTM. Near adjournment, members are quizzed about various aspects of the meeting.
“Members enjoy the friendly competitive energy, the creativity of the Quiz Master, and the chance to evaluate their own listening in the meeting,” he says. The weekly quiz, he adds, “raises the energy of the meeting by encouraging all to participate in answering.”
The member who serves as Quiz Master stretches their analytic skills,
says Kleinosky. “It requires quick processing of a significant amount of content to create a wide-ranging, yet concise, set
Many clubs have added a Body Language Monitor to their meetings; Online Presenters, whose founders are based in District 47 (South Florida and the Bahamas), evolved that to a role called the Watcher.
David F. Carr, DTM, who led Online Presenters to charter in 2017, says body language may be more limited online, “but there are lots of other issues with how you present yourself visually. How well is your picture framed within the webcam? If you are using body language such as hand gestures, are you keeping them within the frame? How’s your lighting? Is what we see in the background helping or hurting your presentation? If you’re using visual aids, are you using them effectively? The Watcher takes notes on all those things and gives a report at the end of the meeting.”
The Online Presenters club also assigns a Chat Monitor to assist the Toastmaster of the Day and report technical difficulties as well as interesting, useful, or amusing items. The Chat Monitor forwards questions posted to the chat window for the speakers.
Just for Fun—Mostly
Non-traditional roles like Joke Master, a commonly assigned task, often serve as a simple, lower-pressure role for nervous newcomers. “It gives the member the chance to practice delivering a joke, including delivering the punch line and punch word for best effect,” says Marshall, of Speakers Forum. “Any member can do this role. When the Joke Master is successful, the room fills with laughter, and it does indeed lighten the mood.”
St. Vladimir Toastmasters uses a Joke Master, and also devised The Last Word to go out on a lighter note.
“Each member taking this role prepares a 60- to 90-second speech or final thought that closes the meeting,” says Kleinosky. “Sometimes it is on a subject that the member cares about; sometimes it’s humorous; sometimes it’s informed by things which just happened in the meeting. We find that it is always an interesting, popular, and effective way to end our meetings.”
Watch this video for extra tips on successfully filling meeting roles during an online meeting.
Kate McClare, DTM is President of Miami Advanced Toastmasters in Miami, Florida. She believes that every time the Ah-Counter rings the bell, a Toastmaster gets their wings.