A Toastmaster’s Ah-Counter is the one who is required to count and report the number of unnecessary sounds that hamper the effectiveness of a speaker to deliver their speech, such as filler and repetitive words. Let’s talk about how one can effectively play the Ah Counter role.
Why is an Ah Counter important?
I used to wonder this when I first became a Toastmaster. The role didn’t seem to add much value to me as someone in the audience. It wasn’t until I started speaking regularly that the importance of this role became apparent to me.
I realized that as people who don’t speak on a stage very often, we may have a very conversational style of speaking. When we’re speaking to a friend, we may not realize the number of times we’re using filler words such as “you know”, “like” and the usual “ahs” & “ums”.
When we go on stage, with the shakiness in our feet combined with the burden of remembering a speech, we’re bound to use a lot more of these filler words to mask our nervousness.
The worst thing about this is, when we use them, we don’t even realize it…and this makes it quite hard for us to work on eliminating them.
That’s where the Ah Counter comes in. He/she will be there to catch every filler word you use, giving you a much better understanding of how you can make your speech flow more smoothly and deliver with more effectiveness.
Here are the steps to playing the role of Ah Counter:
Prepare a brief explanation of the duties of the Ah Counter for the benefit of the guests. Carry a pen and paper to maintain the record of filler words.
The Toastmasters of the Day (TMOD) will introduce you to the stage. This usually happens along with the introductions of the Timer and Grammarian roles. When called upon, start by shaking your hand with the TMOD before taking over the stage.
Your script could look like this:
“Thank you Madam/Mister Toastmaster of the Day. Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests. My role as the Ah-Counter is to count the number of unnecessary sounds or repetitive words you may use when you are speaking on stage. I will be observing and taking note of words such as “Ah“, “Um”, “You Know”, “Like”. These are filler words that affect the effectiveness of a speech. I will present my report when called upon by the General Evaluator. Back to you Madam/Mister Toastmasters of the Day.”
You can carry a script with you as well if you are going to be playing the role for the first time.
You can even have start your introduction with a short analogy like this.
Throughout the meeting, listen to all the speakers and role players and keep track of all inappropriate filler sounds or words used by them, including repeats and restarts. Be sure to write down the name of each person who speaks so you can give an accurate report of non-offenders (people to who did not use any filler words).
Optionally, you might want to jot down any bad habits of a particular unnecessary sound that you noticed that a speaker might have. For example, if someone is using the word “like” very often, pointing this out during your report would be particularly helpful for that speaker to realize this and take steps to improve their speech.
Try not getting too engrossed in a speech while performing your role! It can get tempting to get absorbed into a speech and completely forget your duties (When I played the role of the Ah Counter, I’ve missed out on a few filler words because I was so lost in the speaker’s amazingly crafted speech!).
As an Ah Counter, you will gain a good understanding of how to deal with unnecessary sounds especially when you end up delivering your own speeches.
At the end of the meeting, usually after the evaluations of the speeches are done, you will be introduced back on the stage by the General Evaluator to give your Ah Counter report. You will need to report the total number of unnecessary sounds a speaker made. Your script could look like:
“Thank you Madam/Mister Toastmasters of the Day. Fellow Toastmasters and guests, here is my Ah-Counter report: John had 5 “ums”, Lee had 2 “ahs” and 3 “ums”, Raj used the word “you know’ 4 times in his speech. Jack and Phil had no filler words. That’s all from me. Back to you Madam/Mister Toastmasters of the Day.”
Your contribution as an Ah-Counter is part of a Leadership award scheme crafted by Toastmasters. Since different clubs can handle this differently, it’s best if you speak to your club’s Vice President of Education for more details.
Ah Counter Reporting Sheet
There is a format which can help you as an Ah Counter which will aid you to take down your hearings in an organized manner. Here is the format:
However, I personally don’t like to use a printed format to make my reports as I feel it restricts me and makes my report look messy because of the limited space. I prefer making such a format on a blank piece of paper which I can modify as per my choosing.
But if you do feel like you would want a set printed format, you can download it here:
Also, here’s a tip while making your report: use the tally-mark format. It’ll help you be more accurate in your measurement of counting the filler words without making your report look messy.
Ah Counter Application
Toastmasters has also created an application which allows you as an Ah Counter to quickly add on all the different types of filler words you hear the speaker say. The application would automatically count the filler words and display them to you. It’s a much more convenient way to execute your reporting!
People usually take up the role of Ah Counter when they are new to Toastmasters as it’s a short and simple role. Personally, I feel the roles of Timer, Ah Counter and Grammarian are meant more for people who are completely terrified of the stage.
These smaller roles offer an opportunity to get on stage for a short amount of time. After doing this 2 or 3 times, one may feel a LOT more comfortable delivering a speech rather than just starting out with one.
When first taking up this role, if you’re new to the stage, it’s best to deliver the role simply but properly. The steps provided above will help you do just that!
However, if you want an example of a pretty “different” Ah Counter, here is a video I found that can be a good source of reference.
If you don’t feel comfortable doing something like this, just stick to the script! The point of taking up this role is not only to help speakers understand where they are using filler words but also to help you get a feel of the stage!
After taking on roles like these you will be much more familiar with the stage. But if you’re looking for some help to improve your public speaking at a holistic level, I would highly recommend you to check out this course: Acumen Presents: Chris Anderson on Public Speaking on Udemy. The 5 tools of public speaking – connection, narration, explanation, persuasion and revelation – taught here are immensely helpful.
Being the founder of TED Talks, Chris Anderson provides numerous examples of the best TED speakers to give us a very practical way of overcoming stage fear and delivering a speech that people will remember. His course has helped me personally and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to learn public speaking.