Meeting Roles

How to plan for a meeting role

You can plan ahead for your role by checking the club’s meeting schedule and roles. We encourage you to sign up for a role in each meeting by contacting VP Education.

How to chair a meeting

The chairperson is formally in-charge of the meeting. S/he sets the tone, introduces many of the people who will be speaking, and generally keeps the meeting on track and on schedule.

The chair should start preparing after the previous meeting…

  1. Choose a theme
  2. Email club members, listing the filled roles, asking for their thoughts on the theme, & requesting volunteers for the unassigned roles. See assigned roles in the club’s meeting schedule & roles.
    The must-fill roles are:

    • Table Topics Host
    • General Evaluator
    • Timer

    Other important roles:

    • Grammarian
    • Speaker(s)
    • Speech Evaluator(s)

    Optional Roles:

    • Jokester
    • Inspirator
    • Ranter
    • Table Topics Evaluator
  3. Assign remaining roles and send out a finalized list 1 week before the meeting.
  4. Prepare a ~2 minute opening statement and a ~1-2 minute closing statement based on theme.
  5. Prepare an agenda & print multiple copies (at least 20).
  6. Arrive early for the meeting to layout the agendas & evaluation forms.
  7. During the meeting, introduce members using their responses to the theme.
  8. As the meeting progresses, pay careful attention to the schedule. If the meeting is running late, ask specific participants to cut down on their section. Appropriate sections to reduce or eliminate are Table Topics and evaluation reports. But try not to reduce speech times.
  9. Close the meeting on a positive note and thank all participants for their contribution.

How to time a meeting

Timing is in important part of every presentation. In real life, we only get a short amount of time to deliver our message before people ‘tune us out.’

As the meeting timer, you will help reinforce this goal and keep the meeting running on time be warning speakers of their progress and ringing them down with a bell when they run overtime. The meeting timer also notes the time of each meeting participant, from Table Topics answers to evaluation reports to formal speeches.

The meeting chair should confirm speech times and note them in the meeting agenda. The timer should confer with the chair so that s/he understands the timing for the meeting.

Here are some examples:

Timer Example

In general, the chair is not clapped down. But if the meeting is running overtime, the timer should inform the chair. The chair can then shorten some portions of the meeting (ex. Evaluations, table topics) so that the meeting will finish on time.

How to do grammarian evaluation

Poor grammar can detract much from your message, whereas clear pronunciation and descriptive language will greatly enhance your effectiveness as a public speaker. The grammarian strives to help everyone improve his or her grammar by keeping a sharp ear open. The grammarian also suggests a word of the night that each speaker is encouraged to use.

Also, meaningless filler phrases and words, such as you know and ah, consume time and can frustrate the audience. The Grammarian will keep his or her senses peeled and fingers counting throughout the meeting, busily tracking the filler words of all speakers.


  • Count filler words (like ahs and ums) and provide a report at end of meeting
  • Challenge members to use the “Word of the Day,” and perhaps offer a prize or incentive (be creative!)
  • Point our exemplary use of languages in the report

How to evaluate a speaker

Consult Evaluation Form: Speech Evaluator to get a sense of how to evaluate a speaker’s performance.

How to host table topics

At Marpole Community Toastmasters, when there are no formal speeches, Table Topics can use most of the meeting time. As such, the Table Topics host should prepare enough questions for all the members plus a few extra for unexpected guests.

On nights with formal speeches, the Table Topics time will be shortened to keep the meeting on track. On these occasions, it will not be possible for every attendee to participate in Table Topics. When this is the case, the Table Topics Host should focus on the members with the least, or no speaking, time. This will give everyone a chance to actively participate in a meeting.

The basics of hosting table topics:

  • If desired, confirm the theme with the chair.
  • Prepare several questions for the meeting, based on the theme if desired.
  • Prepare an opening statement that describes the purpose of table topics and instructs participants on their role when answering questions.
  • Before the start of the meeting, confirm the allotted Table Topics time with the chair to ensure the TT session does not run late.
  • Before the start of the meeting, ask guests if they would like to participate in table topics.
  • When the chair introduces the table topics portion of the meeting, thank the chair, and deliver the prepared opening statement. Then ask the first question of an experienced member, so that any guests can see an example.
  • Listen closely to each response. When the speaker is done, thank them and use some portion of their content to fill the gap between the previous speaker and the next question. This is called bridging.
  • Ask as many questions as time allows.
  • At the end of the session, turn the meeting back over to the chair.

Table Topics does not have to be as cut and dry as described above. You can vary the way you run it, but the key goals are:

  • Create a situation where the respondee has to ‘think on their feet.’
  • Give each speaker up to 2 minutes to respond.
  • Practice bridging skills between speakers.
  • Give as many attendees a chance to speak as possible.

Some more creative variations of Table Topics are:

  • Have people respond to a picture/scent/sound.
  • Have people respond to newspaper/magazine clippings or headlines.
  • Have speakers draw their questions at random.
  • Have a debate where the host makes a statement (not a question), one speaker ‘agrees,’ and one speaker ‘disagrees.’

How to evaluate table topics

Consult: Evaluation Form: Table Topics.

How to do general evaluation

Your job is to evaulate everyone who hasn’t been evaluated yet (i.e. chair, inspirator, evaluators, etc.). Consult: Evaluation Form: General Evaluator