The Art of Speaking  

Real life skills you gain from Toastmasters?

Mastering public speaking

YouTube /Wade Paterson

Within a typical Toastmasters meeting, there are a number of different roles that club members can sign up for.

A few examples are: Toastmaster, Humourist, Grammarian, Ah Counter, Timer, General Evaluator, Table Topics Master, etc. Those who sign up for these roles not only help ensure the Toastmasters meeting is a success, but they also gain experience communicating in scenarios that directly relate to real life.

In this month’s column and accompanying video, I break down eight different Toastmasters roles and explain how club members benefit from signing up for these roles.

The Grammarian

The Grammarian role has a couple of purposes. The first is to come up with a word-of-the-day, to help expand each club member’s lexicon. The second part of the Grammarian position is to listen throughout the meeting for good uses of language or vocabulary, and find opportunities when speakers could have used more impactful words.

Vocabulary is an important aspect of communication. Whether you’re speaking in front of an audience or having a one-on-one conversation, you gain instant credibility when you’re able to use thought-provoking words that capture the imagination of your audience.

The Timer

The role of the Timer is to — you guessed it — track the timing of each speaker throughout the meeting. At the end of the meeting, the Timer delivers a report to club members, letting them know if they stayed within their allotted time when speaking.

Staying on time while giving a speech is incredibly important. Beyond the importance of keeping your audience engaged, if your speech is part of a larger event, ending too quickly or speaking for too long can impact the agenda and throw everything out of whack. One thing to note is that many people speak quicker when in front of an audience than they do when practicing on their own.

The Ah Counter

“Ahh, umm, err, uhh.” These are a few of the common crutch or filler words speakers use to fill in the silence when speaking in front of a group of people. The role of the Ah Counter at a Toastmasters meeting is to catch these usages and inform club members so they can eliminate filler words from their speeches in the future.

Too many filler words can be incredibly distracting and take away from your message in real life conversations. Eliminating these crutch words makes you sound more polished, and you will earn the attention and respect of those who you are communicating with.

Table Topics Master

Impromptu speaking is one of the hardest things to do as a public speaker. The purpose of a Table Topics Master is to ask club members random questions, to which they are asked to deliver an answer by speaking for one to two minutes.

Whether you’re being asked a question by an audience member following a speech, or being asked a question at a cocktail party, thinking on your feet is an important skill to have. Table Topics helps you sharpen your ability to give a thoughtful answer quickly, and it gives the Table Topics Master the opportunity to come up with creative questions.


Every speaking opportunity within a Toastmasters meeting is evaluated. Speech and role evaluators are tasked with listening carefully, taking notes, then providing meaningful feedback to speakers so they can improve in the future.

Most people think the only purpose of Toastmasters is to make you a better speaker; however, a side benefit to participating in Toastmasters is that you become a better listener as well.

The Humourist

The Humourist’s purpose is simple: make the audience laugh.
Humour is one of the most effective skills a speaker can have because it does two things. First: It relaxes the audience. When a new speaker takes the stage, the audience is typically wondering whether or not this person is going to be enjoyable to listen to. If the speaker can make them laugh quickly, the audience relaxes knowing it’s going to be an enjoyable speech. Second: It relaxes you, the speaker. When the audience laughs, it builds your confidence because you know those in attendance are enjoying themselves.

The Toast

The Toast is typically one of the first parts of a Toastmasters meeting agenda. The Toast often reflects the theme of the week, and sets the tone for the rest of the meeting.
Being able to deliver a toast at a social or professional event is a powerful skill to have. Not many people are willing to stand up and say a few words about the occasion; however, those who do often create a moment that will be memorable for attendees.

The Toastmaster

The Toastmaster role is, in my opinion, the most difficult position to sign up for at a Toastmasters meeting. The Toastmaster is the quarterback of the meeting. Doing the role successfully requires preparation and the ability to transition smoothly between speakers, while keeping the entire meeting on time.

The real life benefit of signing up for the Toastmaster role is that it is great practice for being an MC. Whether it’s being a wedding MC or hosting a work event, the ability to keep an agenda structured and ensure the day flows smoothly is a difficult, but important, skill to acquire.

If you’re based in Kelowna and looking to join a Toastmasters club, you can find more information here.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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