A Toastmaster’s Timer is the one who records and reports the time of every speech being delivered. In Toastmasters, every speaker has to speak within a given time-range. With the use of 3 coloured cue cards and a stopwatch, the Timer helps every speaker know how much time they have remaining on stage. This is how one can effectively play the Timer role.
Why is a Timer Important?
In our daily circumstances, we often do not have the luxury to speak for however long we wish to. In most (professional) situations such as an interview, sales pitch or presentation, you are required to communicate your messages in a short but effective manner.
That’s where the role of the Timer comes in – to make sure you communicate the desired message within an allotted time period.
Having a set time for a speech forces us to focus only on the key points of our speech and leaves little room for wandering off topic (that is, IF you know what you want to communicate in the first place).
Since Toastmasters is a community platform, having set time slots allows more people to participate in the meeting as well.
Related article: Are You Getting the Most Out of Toastmasters? Here are 8 Ways to do so
Here are the steps to playing the role of Timer:
You will be called upon by the Toastmaster of the Day to introduce yourself and explain your role as the Timer. This is majorly done for the benefit of the guests as they are (most likely) unfamiliar with the various roles at Toastmaster.
Start by explaining what your duties as the Timer are. Prepare this explanation in advance and carry a pen, paper and stopwatch (your phone has this feature too, of course) with you. You will also be given 3 coloured cue cards: green, red and yellow. To put it briefly:
- Green represents qualifying time
- Yellow represents target time
- Red represents finish time
For example, in a speech ranging from 5 minutes to 7 minutes, the green card would go up on the 5th minute (qualifying time), the yellow card would go up on the 6th minute (target time) and the red card would go up on 7th minute (finish time).
In most speeches (if not all), a grace period of 30 seconds is allowed on either side of the speech. What that means is that if our speaker talks for 4:30 minutes or for 7:30 minutes, she still qualifies. In other words, they are allowed to cut their speech 30 seconds short, or go 30 seconds above the stipulated time.
Your script could look like this:
“Thank you Madam/Mister Toastmaster of the Day. Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests. My role as the Timer is to keep time for all the speakers to ensure that every one speaks within their allotted time slot. This will also help in ensuring that the meeting runs on time.
To help me do this, I have 3 coloured cue cards with me. I will raise the green card when the speaker hits qualifying time, I will raise the yellow card when the speaker hits the target time and I will raise the red card when the speaker has reached the end of their allotted time. For example, for a 5 to 7 minute speech, I shall raise the green card at the 5th minute, the yellow card on the 6th minute and the red card on 7th minute.
The speaker will also be granted a grace period of 30 seconds on either side of the speech. I will present my report when called upon by the Toastmaster of the Day. Thank you.”
Related article: The Skill of Crafting the Perfect Speech Evaluation
The scripts for both those segments can go something like this:
Table Topics speeches are for 1 to 2 minutes. I will show the green card at 1 minute, the yellow card at 1½ minutes, and the red card at 2 minutes. The speaker will have 30 second grace period after 2 minutes to wrap up his/her speech.
Something to keep in mind while timing Table Topics – the 30 second grace period is only allowed on the upper side of the speech. This is different from the evaluation and prepared speeches where 30 seconds of grace is allowed on either side of the speech.
Speech evaluations are for 2 to 3 minutes. I will show the green card at 2 minutes, the yellow card at 2½ minutes, and the red card at 3 minutes. The speaker has a grace period of 30 seconds on either side of the specified time limit.
Here are the timing guidelines for common Toastmaster speeches:
- 4-6 minutes for Icebreakers: Green card at 4 minutes, yellow card at 5 minutes and red card at 6 minutes
- 5-7 minutes for other speeches (most Toastmasters speeches are this length): Green card at 5 minutes, yellow card at 6 minutes and red card at 7 minutes (30 seconds grace on either side)
- 1-2 minutes for Table Topics: Green card at 1 minutes, yellow card at 1:30 minutes and red card at 2 minutes (30 seconds grace on upper side)
- 2-3 minutes for Evaluation: Green card at 2 minutes, yellow card at 2:30 minutes and red card at 3 minutes (30 seconds grace on either side)
Just a note, when you are describing the timing signals, ensure that you show the cards to the audience while explaining to them which colour stands for what.
You can carry a script with you as well if you are going to be playing the role for the first time.
If you would like to see an example of starting your introduction with a quote, you can check out this article.
During the meeting, ensure that you are seated in the first row so that the speaker can clearly see which card you are holding up.
Before the meeting, have a word with the speakers and confirm with them their speech timings as different projects can have different timing guidelines (usually, the evaluator reads the timing guidelines of their speaker when they are asked to read about the objectives of the speech, but it’s safer to confirm the same with the speakers in advance).
When a speaker goes on stage, start the clock as soon as she begins speaking or makes some gesture or sound. As the clock hits qualifying time, hold up the green card in a manner that the speaker can clearly see it.
It’s important to keep in mind that only the speaker has to be able to see the timing cards, it’s not for the audience so don’t hold it up too high. When you hold up a card, keep it held until it’s time for the next card to be raised.
Don’t raise the card and set it down again. The speaker might have not seen it. Even if the speaker has seen it, the cards are a constant reminder to the speaker as to how much time they have remaining. So don’t set your hands down!
When the clock hits target time, raise the yellow card and when the speaker hits finishing time, hold up the red card.
As soon as the speaker ends her speech, stop the timer and note the timing down in your notebook next to the speaker’s name.
The Timer will be called on 3 times (unless some club functions differently): after the prepared speeches, after the Table Topics and after the evaluations. Each time, you need to go up on stage, face the audience and read out the timings of each speaker. After you’re done stating the timings, point out if someone has not hit qualifying time. If they have not, they will not be eligible for voting.
Your report script could look like this:
“Thank you Madam/Mister Toastmasters of the Day. Fellow Toastmasters and guests, John took 5 minutes and 31 seconds, Raj took 3 minutes and 14 seconds and Lee took 6 minutes and 3 seconds. Everyone besides Raj has qualified and is eligible for voting. That’s all from me. Back to you Toastmaster of the Day!”
Toastmaster Timer Sheet
There is a format which can help you as a Timer which will aid you to take down your numbers 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:
Your contribution as a Timer 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.
People usually take up the role of Timer when they are new to Toastmasters as it’s a short and simple role. Timers usually get more stage time as opposed to the Ah Counter or Grammarian since they have to provide guidelines and report for all 3 segments of the meeting.
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.
If you’re just starting out with public speaking, 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.
Related article: 6 Techniques to Stop Saying Filler Words: Eliminate the Ahs & Ums!
When first taking up this role, if you’re new to the stage, it’s best to deliver the role simply but properly. These steps will help you do just that!