You’ve been assigned to be Toastmaster for the next meeting. What do you do? Should you try to skip the meeting? No! Being a good Toastmaster is an important part of being a good speaker. Embrace the role as part of your Toastmasters training and experience. You are not a true Toastmaster until you’re a good Toastmaster!
As Toastmaster, your first task is to set the meeting theme. The theme is the common thread that ties the entire meeting together. It is the leit motif of your composition. Running a meeting is analogous to crafting a speech. The main difference is that you’re incorporating actual people into your narrative.
To pick a good theme, first identify who your speakers will be. You can contact people individually, request guidance from the VP of Education, or ask for volunteers at the preceding meeting. Ask the speakers what they will be speaking about. Your theme should be an idea or concept that is explored or exemplified by the speeches.
Let’s say one speaker wants to talk about the price of oil. Another wants to talk about ways to save on electricity bills. Oil and electricity are forms of energy. Your meeting theme could be “Energy”. One speaker wants to retell funny stories from childhood. Another wants to talk about an unforgettable trip. Stories and trips are indelible memories. Your meeting theme could be “Memories”. You don’t have to stick to literal interpretations. Blue is a color, but it is also a mood and a musical style. Engage your associative memories. Be creative!
Once your theme is set, get in touch with your Table Topics Master. Make sure that her questions or activities are aligned with the theme. For example, for the theme of “Energy”, the Table Topics might be a debate about Solar power vs. Nuclear power. For “Memories”, the questions might involve a favorite or worst vacation/childhood/work/marriage experience.
All great speeches begin with a great introduction. Similarly for a truly engaging Toastmaster performance, you should script an introduction to your meeting. Give a bit of background or history or various interpretations regarding your theme. Set the stage for the performances that are coming later in the meeting. Score additional style points by decorating the venue or bringing additional props that enhance your meeting theme. Some themes will be easier to decorate than others. As well, ask the Word Master to pick a word that’s relevant to the theme.
Transition are like drops of oil that keep the meeting humming along smoothly between functionaries. As you thank each functionary and introduce the next one, tell the audience how the previous segment related to the meeting theme. Because you may not be fully aware of what each functionary is going to do, listen and take mental notes on how to transition away from the current speaker to the next in a way that is relevant to the theme. A flexible mind and impromptu thinking is required. At the end of the meeting, close by talking about what transpired during the meeting and tie everything together one last time. This is analogous to the conclusion of a speech.
For more on how to organize a meeting, please check out our club guide for Meeting Toastmasters.
Update: Here are 101 fantastic Table Topics that you can use to compliment your meeting or to generate ideas for an interesting theme! All credit to Mark LaVergne, DTM and Past Director of Toastmasters International.