What Happens in a Best of Dallas Toastmasters Meeting?
Most meetings follow a similar format. The meeting is opened by our Sergeant-at-Arms, and then a member gives a brief inspirational thought. The President or other presiding officer introduces the Toastmaster of the meeting, who has been working over the past week to organize the meeting, ensure that roles are filled, create the agenda, etc. The Toastmaster then introduces other role-holders, who in turn explain their roles.
After these introductions, we hold Table Topics, an activity that helps us learn to speak off-the-cuff. A question is asked, and then a member is called on to speak on the topic for 1-2 minutes, while also using the Word of the Day. While guests are welcome to participate in Table Topics, you will not be called upon unless you have previously given permission. So feel free to relax and enjoy the show! At the end of Table Topics, everyone is encouraged to vote for the person they feel did the best job. All members and guests can take part in voting; you don’t need any prior experience.
After a break of around 10 minutes, members (usually three) give prepared speeches. In addition to educating or amusing the audience, each speaker has a set of specific learning objectives. For example, one speaker might be working to improve her gestures and body language, while another might be focusing on using visual aids to get his point across. These goals are outlined in various manuals, which members work through at their own pace. Speeches may be as short as 4-6 minutes for members who are giving their very first speech, or as long as 13-15 minutes for members who are working on projects from some of the advanced manuals. Members and guests vote on the speaker who best met the objectives of their project, (regardless of whether the individual was the most skillful speaker of the evening).
Some say that evaluations are the heart and soul of a Toastmasters club meeting. Each speaker is assigned an evaluator, whose job is to focus on what the speaker did well and what improvements could be made in the future. It is not often that we are given immediate feedback on our communication skills, and so we value this unique opportunity. The General Evaluator then gives an evaluation of the meeting as a whole, noting things like timeliness, organization, participation, and enthusiasm. At this time, members and guests vote for best evaluation.
Reports, Business, and Closing
Finally, role-holders give their own reports, and members and guests vote for the person (not including the Toastmaster) who contributed the most to the meeting. This award is sometimes referred to as the Most Enthusiastic Toastmaster, the Toastmaster of the Evening, or the Toastie with the Mostie. At this point, the President or presiding officer will take control of the meeting and handle any business, such as inducting new members, announcing upcoming events, or reporting on decisions made by the Executive Committee. Awards are presented, and a good time is had by all!