Toastmasters roles: Time keeper

The Passage of Time

As I complete the various roles in the Toastmasters Competent Leadership manual I will write about them on this blog. In this post I will discuss the role of Time keeper.

To ensure the timely running of a Toastmasters meetings all speeches are allocated a minimum and a maximum time. This applies to everything on the agenda including the president’s introduction and the toastmaster’s links. For each meeting there will be a time keeper to ensure the meeting runs to time. The time keeper must fulfil three important roles: 1. Explain the timing rules 2. Record the time of each of the speeches and deliver timing reports 3. Signal the speakers as their time expires and eventually runs out.

Time keeping is surprisingly demanding. It requires a lot of concentration to keep track of everyone’s names, speech titles and times. Furthermore it requires a lot of stage time. The time keeper must explain the rules at the beginning and deliver a timer keeper’s reports after the table topics session, the prepared speeches and the evaluations. What must be said in each section is very well defined so the role is an excellent opportunity for new members to get used to being on stage without having the stress that comes with tabletopics or prepared speeches.

Despite requiring a lot of concentration the role is straight forward. It’s unlikely that anything is going to go wrong or that you’ll be embarrassed. The worst that could happen is that you could forget to start the stopwatch – my advice there would be to make a best guess at the elapsed time and give the speaker the benefit of the doubt if it looks like they’re going to go over time.

I have done the time keeper role twice and from my experience there are a few things you can do to make sure your role as time keeper goes smoothly:

Check the times in the agenda are correct

As time keeper you will be responsible for signalling how much time the speaker has left. This is done using three lights: green for the minimum time; yellow for the midpoint between the minimum and maximum times; and red for the maximum time. These times should be noted in the meeting agenda. Make absolutely sure these times are complete and correct. The second time I was time keeper all of the maximum times were missing. Luckily I noticed this before the meeting started and was able to find out the correct times and draw people’s attention to it.

Use the Horn

If a speech continues beyond the red light then the speaker has a short period to wrap up and get off the stage. In Toastmasters competitions this period is fixed at thirty seconds. After this time you should signal that it is time to end, usually by blowing a horn. It is important that individuals speak within a bounded time to practice for the competitions and prevent the meeting overrunning. The one exception to this is icebreakers, first time speakers could be very nervous and should be given as much time as they need. New members may not feel confident about blowing the horn as it is such an assertive gesture, I frequently see time keepers receiving recommendations about using the horn more.

Pronounce names correctly

The time keeper role is often given to new members. They may not be familiar with all of the members at the club and may not have met the guests. As a result I often see time keepers (and other functionaries) mispronouncing people’s names during the reports. This could be irritating for the people concerned so I recommend asking the topicsmaster to read you the names of all the people participating in the table topics section, and clarify the names of anyone on the agenda. Jot down the phonetic spelling of any names that you may have difficulty with.

And finally, a quote about time introduced by the time keeper at a recent meeting:

“I’ve been on a calendar, but I’ve never been on time!” – Marilyn Monroe

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  1. Posted November 4, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    hi and thanks, this web site really made it simpler for me with a writing project for my university class at FSU

  2. Posted November 10, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    It helped me to prepare to be a first time timekeeper since I didn’t provide myself the opportunity to read up on what a timekeeper does during a toastmaster session

  3. Beatriz
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    I have been assigned the role of a timekeeper and this was very helpful. thank you

  4. Ismail Sadiq
    Posted July 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I have been assigned the role of a timekeeper and this was very helpful.
    thank you so much

  5. Posted February 23, 2013 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    this is a very useful article for me as a new member in the club and i got to do time keeping and it helped me alot.

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