What happens at a meeting?

A typical Bedford Speakers meeting is divided into two halves. The first half is devoted to speaking, the second to evaluations.

A normal meeting will begin with a welcome from the club president, who then hands over to the Toastmaster of the Evening to chair the rest of the meeting. Two or three members will then present speeches that they have prepared in advance. This is followed by the table topics session, in which a few members have the opportunity to practice speaking off the cuff.

After a break for tea and biscuits, the General Evaluator takes over. The prepared speakers and the table topics speakers all receive evaluations, and then the General Evaluator returns to evaluate the evaluators. The meeting closes with a return to the club president.

Time Keeping

Meetings are run to a strict schedule, as is everything that takes place as part of a meeting. The agenda will show the time slot allocated for role. Sticking to the time allowed is good manners and allows everyone an adequate interval for what they have to do. It is also an excellent learning vehicle for public events where, if your speech is too long, it inconveniences everyone else, including the guests and delegates.

Applause

Each speaker receives a hearty round of applause as they get up to speak and again when they return to their seat. This allows the audience to both encourage and to thank speakers for their participation.

The Toastmaster of the Evening and the Table Topics Master are responsible for leading the applause. The Meeting Evaluator will be sure to comment if they fail to do so!

Handshakes

During the meeting many people will speak at the lectern. On reaching the lectern each one will shake hands with the person that preceded them and again, with the person following them when they have finished. Handshaking signifies the handing over control of the meeting from one individual to another in much the same way as handing over a baton in a relay race.

Salutations

Instead of the traditional 'Ladies and Gentlemen', speakers at a Toastmasters meeting may use the following saluations: Mr/Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome Guests or Mr/Madam Table Topics Master, fellow Toastmasters and welcome Guests, whichever is appropriate.

When a speaker has finished they will say Mr/Madam Toastmaster or Mr/Madam Table Topics Master in place of "Thank You". The view at Toastmasters is that Speakers have expended time and effort in providing entertainment, so it it is the Speakers who should be thanked rather than the audience.

For me the Toastmaster experience is invaluable. Firstly, it gives me the opportunity to practise speaking and experiment with new ideas in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Secondly, it gives me the chance to learn so much from others, whatever their level of expertise. And thirdly, it means I spend time with real people who enjoy life. What better way to share this journey?
Paul, Bedford