Nepean Valley Toastmasters


Nepean Valley Toastmasters

How our meetings work

A Toastmasters' meeting is a professional meeting. We have a set agenda for each meeting, with a variety of roles and assignments allocated to members in advance. Some roles are required in every meeting, such as the Chairman or Table Topics Master; other roles appear sporadically from meeting to meeting in order to provide variety, like those found under Short Assignments.

Click on any of the headings below to navigate your way through our Guide to Assignments. The guide is full of tips to help members conduct whatever assignment they are given at a meeting.

Click on the menu item below to navigate your way through our Guide to Assignments. The guide is full of tips to help members conduct whatever assignment they are given at a meeting.

  • Introduction to assignments

    At the beginning and end of each assignment you are required to address the Chairman e.g. you might begin with: “Mr/Madam Chairman, fellow toastmasters and guests…”

    When concluding you might simply say “Mr/Madam Chairman,” or “Mr/Madam Chairman that completes my assignment.”

    Should dignitaries be in attendance e.g. Area or Division Director or district officers, they must be addressed first, at the beginning and end of each assignment.

    Example meeting agenda

    Assignment Timing
    Sgt. At Arms 1
    President's Opening 2
    Chairman's Opening w/ Apologies 2
    Program Changes (w/ Competent Leader reminder) 2
    Welcome 2-3
    Toast 2-3
    Reading Master 2-3
    Soap Box 2-3
    Table Topics Master 15
    Table Topics Evaluator (Uneven no's) 2-3
    Table Topics Evaluator (Even no's) 2-3
    Break 15
    Sgt. At Arms 1
    1st Speech 5-7
    2nd Speech 5-7
    3rd Speech 8-10
    1st Speech Evaluator 2-3
    2nd Speech Evaluator 2-3
    3rd Speech Evaluator 2-3
    Um/Ah Counter 2-3
    Timer 1
    General Evaluator 5-7
    Future Programming 2-3
    Guest and Visitor's Remarks  
    Chairman's Close 2
    President's Close 2
  • Chairman

    The Chairman role is a very important role in every meeting. It's the Chairman's responsibility to ensure the meeting starts on time, and that the meeting flows in an orderly fashion.

    As Chairman you also set the mood for the whole meeting. By keeping a positive and enthusiastic attitude, you lift the general mood of the meeting and make it more enjoyable for your fellow members.

    Don't worry too much about the possibility of making mistakes, just keep the meeting moving and enjoy your moment of control.

    After the Sergeant-at-Arms and President have opened the meeting, the Chairman gives their opening and addresses apologies and changes to the agenda for the meeting due to absences. The opening is conducted as follows:

    1. Stand to introduce yourself. Welcome everyone to the evening's activities.
    2. State clearly how you wish to be addressed - Mr/Madam Chairman. Tell the meeting how you wish them to gain your attention e.g. they must raise their hand or stand.
    3. Ask the Vice President of Education if any formal apologies have been received.
    4. Ask for someone to move that the apologies be accepted.
    5. Ask for someone to second the acceptance of the apologies.
      • Put to the Meeting:
      • "All those in favour, say Aye"
      • Wait for the response
      • "All those against, say Nay"
    6. If the Ayes outweigh the Nays, say, "I believe the Ayes have it, motion carried"
    7. Call for future apologies - No motion is required.
    8. Ask the Vice President of Education if there are any changes to the agenda. Ensure that your copy of the agenda has all the changes so you call up the correct person for each assignment.
    9. Follow the prepared Agenda. It's the Chairman's responsibility to introduce each assignment and the title/name of the member presenting it e.g. "The Welcome this evening will be given by Competent Communicator Roger Murray"
    10. After each introduction, the Chairman should lead the applause until the speaker gets to the lectern

    The Chairman continues introducing each assignment other than the speakers and the speech evaluators, which are introduced by the Toastmaster.

    After the Chairman's closing remarks, hand the gavel to the President.

    If you have occasion to speak from the lectern, pass the gavel of authority to the President (or other appropriate person if the President is unavailable), and announce that you are doing so. On resuming your seat, accept the return of the gavel.

    Business Session

    When conducting a meeting that contains a business session there are a number of additional tasks.

    The Chairman should be conversant with:

    1. The Constitution and By-Laws of the Club
    2. Guide to Meetings — R.E. Renton

    Chairman opens the business session

    "I declare the business session open and ask the Secretary do we have a quorum?"

    If there is no quorum you should advise the meeting that any business conducted will be ratified at the next business meeting.

    Chairman's Instructions

    "I request that all motions/reports be in writing, those wishing to speak to the meeting should stand/raise their hands and wait to be recognised by the chair."

    If there has been a specified time allowed for the business session, it is advisable to notify the timer as to how you would like to be kept informed of the time.

    E.g. (if 15 minutes)

    • Green Light on 10 minutes
    • Amber Light on 12 minutes
    • Red Light on 14 minutes

    Minutes of previous meeting

    We usually have a business meeting every three meetings, so the following procedure needs to be done individually for the minutes of all three meetings.

    • "Has everyone read the minutes for Meeting ---- as circulated?" (Should the minutes not be printed for any reason, ask the Secretary to read them)
    • "Are there any corrections to the minutes?"
    • "I will ask the Secretary to move that the minutes as circulated be taken as read and confirmed."
    • "Do we have a seconder"
    • "All those in favour that the minutes as read (and amended) be taken as read and confirmed say Aye"
    • "Those against say No"
    • "I believe the Ayes have it and declare the motion carried, OR I believe the No's have it and declare the motion lost."
    • Is it your wish that I sign these minutes as a true and correct record?
    • Is there any business arising out of the minutes?

    Correspondence Inwards

    • "Do we have any correspondence inwards Mr/Madam Secretary?"
    • After reading, ask the Secretary to move that the correspondence be received.
    • Call for a seconder to the motion.
    • Those in favour say Aye.
    • Those against say No
    • Declare the motion carried or lost.
    • Ask for any business arising from the correspondence.

    Correspondence Outwards

    • "Do we have any correspondence outwards Mr/Madam Secretary?"
    • If there is a correspondence outward, ask the secretary to read, then move that the correspondence outwards be endorsed.
    • Call for a seconder to the motion.
    • Those in favour say Aye.
    • Those against say No
    • Declare the motion carried or lost.
    • Ask for any business arising from the correspondence.

    Executive Reports

    Before each meeting with a Business Session, the club executive meets to discuss club matters. If any information needs to be conveyed to the club, the executive member responsible for it will present a report at the following Business Session.

    Call for reports from the executive officers in the following order:

    • President
    • Vice-President Education
    • Vice-President Membership
    • Vice-President Public Relations
    • Treasurer
    • Sgt. At Arms

    For each report:

    1. The presenter will move that the report be adopted (this may be amended to received if the meeting disagrees with the report)
    2. Call for a seconder to the motion.
    3. Ask for any discussion on the report.
    4. Proceed with the motion ("All those in favour that the report be adopted say Aye, those against say no")
    5. Declare the motion carried or lost.

    General Business

    Business that has been previously put on the agenda or Motions on Notice should be discussed first.


    Procedure for moving motions

    1. Mover moves motion - Hands motion in writing to the chair - and has right of explanation. In some cases the Mover may only give a brief explanation when moving the motion and has the right to speak after it has been seconded. This however can disadvantage the seconder as they may have changed their opinion after hearing further explanation.
    2. Call for a Seconder. The Seconder can speak for the motion or reserve the right to speak later.
    3. Call for a speaker against the motion.
    4. Call for a speaker for the motion. Speakers for and against must be alternated and each speaker must raise new material or challenge the opposition and can only speak once.
    5. Chairman calls for a vote after sufficient discussion. At this point the mover has the right of reply to arguments against the motion. (New material must not be introduced at this time)
    6. The motion should now be read by the Secretary.
    7. The Chairman calls for a vote by show of hands (or secret ballot if desired).
    8. Declare the Motion Carried (passed or adopted) OR declare the Motion Lost (failed, defeated, or rejected).

    Amendments to Motions

    1. Amendments are changes in detail only to the original motion.
    2. The mover or seconder to the original motion cannot move an amendment.
    3. An amendment must be seconded.
    4. The chairman must call for a speaker against.
    5. Speakers should be alternated as before (ensure that the speakers are speaking to the amendment and not to the original motion).
    6. The mover of the original motion may speak for or against the amendment.
    7. The mover of the amendment has no right of reply.
    8. Call for a vote on the amendment and declare the amendment won or lost.
    9. Resume discussion on the original or amended motion.
    • Motions should be voted on as required.
    • Call for any further business from the floor.
    • Ask for motions to be put on notice for following meetings.

    Declare the Business Session Closed

  • Evaluation

    All evaluators have difficult and vitally important tasks.

    Every evaluation has an impact on someone else's self-image. The usual formula is:

    Praise -> Suggest how to improve -> Praise

    This is used because it appeals to human nature. The first words of the evaluation set the tone, so if they are praising us as speakers, we are at once more open to receive hints as to how we could improve. Final words also leave a lasting impression, hence the need to conclude with praise.

    However, this does not mean that one should "whitewash" when giving an evaluation. It is of utmost importance that your comments are honest and clearly presented. Not just the speechmaker, but also everyone present should know exactly what you mean, and should benefit from your advice.

    It is a set of difficult skills to learn. Listen to good evaluators within our club and at contests. Be sure to be present when "Evaluation Workshops" are given in our club. Read the booklet "Effective Speech Evaluation" and the evaluation guides for each speech in your "C & L" manual.

    General Evaluator

    This role's purpose is to evaluate all parts of the meeting that haven't been evaluated yet. This typically includes:

    • Sergeant-at-Arms
    • President's Opening
    • Chairman's Opening
    • Meeting roles and short speaking assignments
    • Evaluators
    • Table Topics Master

    The roles you don't evaluate are the Parliamentarian, Table Topics Speaker or speakers

    Keep your evaluation on track. There is little time for you to get off the point. Stick to the 5-7 minutes time limit for this role. Your notes will be important and you should stick to them as much as possible.

    All the way through, remember to use the Praise - Hint - Praise formula for everyone and for the meeting as a whole.

    Speech Evaluator

    If possible, in the week before your evaluation, read the objectives of the speech. This is easier if the speaker is working towards their CC as we all have a copy of that manual. If they are working from an advanced manual, then contact them to ask for the objectives.

    Try not to use too many words in your evaluation as the speaker may become confused. Make your comments relevant and specific, but always in a tone and language that is kind in intent. Also, make them appropriate for the experience of the speaker.

    In your suggestions on improving, aim first for the more important areas, and don't just SAY the ways to improve, DEMONSTRATE them.

    Remember it is important not to whitewash. No one will learn if they don't receive hints for improvement.

    Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit applies to this role.

    Table Topics Evaluator

    As there are typically eight Table Topics questions asked at each meeting, the evaluation for them is split between two people. One person will evaluate the even-numbered questions (2,4,6,8) while the other evaluates the odd-numbered questions (1,3,5,7).

    The Table Topics master will provide you with a page displaying the relevant questions. Beside each question, note the speaker's name as it is announced.

    In your evaluation, aim to give each speaker:

    • Praise for good point(s)
    • Hint(s) for improvement
    • Other Point(s) of praise

    Giving hints for improvement may not be easy as you don't want to hurt someone else's feelings. At the same time the best way for someone to improve is to be told the areas they need to work on.

    It is preferable to frame your suggestion in a more positive way, uses phrases like the following:

    • perhaps...
    • you might…
    • I would have preferred…
    • I found…
    • another way could have been to…
    • a point for improvement...
    • could have been further enhanced by...

    Words to avoid when evaluating: Must/n't, should/n't, Ought/n't will/won't, never, always etc.

    Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit applies to this role.

  • Table Topics


    Table Topics Master

    Your task is to think up 6,8 or 10 questions that you think will give everyone a chance to talk freely. The number depends on the time allocated that varies based on the number of club members.

    Do not compile questions that will obviously stump people. The questions should be open-ended not closed. For example "How would you react if you lost your passport whilst on an overseas holiday? Not "How did Lincoln die?"

    Before you start to pose the questions, explain the timing (there will be a buzzer at 55 seconds allowing 5 seconds to round off your response)

    It is preferable to ask the question, and then name the receiver.

    Work out from the agenda who has either no assignment or a brief one, and direct questions at those people first. A visiting Toastmaster should also be included if possible. Your job is to ensure that no member sits for the whole evening without getting a chance to speak. However you should remember that no guest is asked to speak if they do not wish to. Always check first before including guests in table topics.

    Only direct questions to the Table Topics Evaluators or the Timer if no others are available. If a question needs to be directed to a Table Topics Evaluator, you should ask the Table Topics Evaluator (Even no's) the first question, as they haven't needed to start their assignment yet.

    Thank the Table Topics Speaker for their answer, remembering not to evaluate each performance, as that's the job of the Table Topics Evaluators.

    Be sure you have written a question page for yourself, and that it is neat enough for you to read without having to repeat yourself or hesitate, both of which can be off-putting to you and the receiver.

    What you give each Table Topics Evaluator

    An important part of your assignment is to prepare a page for each evaluator. Each page should contain:

    • The evaluator's name
    • The questions relevant for that evaluator
    • Be sure the questions are numbered
    • Leave enough space between questions for evaluator's comments

    Give out the evaluator’s pages just before starting your questions.

    Table Topics Speaker

    It is important to remember this. Everybody dreads Table Topics at first. Everybody sitting around is hoping to be overlooked. Just being aware of this eases the burden, just a little.

    There are no set rules about how to tackle a topic. From experience, here are some suggestions:

    • Really hope you get the next question.
    • When it comes your way, take time to stand comfortably behind your chair. Use this time as thinking time.
    • Treat the question as the finishing point of your mini-speech, if that suits you.
    • Try to start your reply as if it were unconnected with the question.
    • If you always treat your answer as the starting point, sometimes ideas dry up.
    • If ideas do dry up, try to say almost anything.
    • Play a word association game with your brain, it sometimes kick-starts an idea.
    • Listen to the good examples at the meetings and learn from them.
    • Sometimes the question will allow you to play off the answers of those before you. This can be an opportunity for humour which will help you feel more at ease.

    Timing for this assignment is a minute, with a buzzer at 55 seconds allowing 5 seconds to round off your response

  • Meeting roles

    The following roles are usually performed at every meeting, the exceptions being the Grammarian/Wordmaster and Um/Ah Counter roles; these two roles appear more sporadically.

    A detailed description of each role can be found under each heading.


    The first part of this assignment will involve presenting a word of your choice to the club. The word doesn't have to be complicated and should be one that interests you. Tell us about its derivation, its meaning, and how and when to use it by putting it into a sentence as an example.

    Print it in large, neat letters on a sheet of paper, and clip it to the lectern so it's visible to everyone in the room. It should be removed during the break so that it isn't displayed on the lectern during the speeches.

    Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit is placed upon the presentation of the word.

    The last part of this assignment involves listening to everything that is being said at the meeting. You are to count the number of times each person uses the word you chose. Also make a note of interesting words or phrases you hear, and listen for any misuse of words or incorrect pronunciation.

    Near the end of the meeting you are to present your findings to the club.

    Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit is placed upon your report.


    This role is a club executive position, it is performed by the club member who was voted into the position during the Annual General Meeting in the first meeting of May.

    The Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible for the location of the meeting, and ensuring the room is ready for use by the club for each meeting.

    The role involves:

    • Arriving early, at least half an hour before our 7.30pm meeting starts, to set up the room
    • Arranging the tables and chairs, ensuring there is enough for everyone to be seated
    • Setting out the lectern, gavel, club banner and Australian flag
    • Displaying the name cards for pickup by members as they arrive, and laying out the guest book for visitors to sign
    • Having ready a tray of glasses, filled with water for the Toast
    • Starting, and re-starting meetings punctually, not waiting for latecomers
    • At the beginning of the evening, rap the gavel on the lectern once, with authority. Following your opening remarks, which will set the tone for the meeting, declare meeting number .... open, and then hand the gavel to the President
    • At the re-start, say, "Our meeting is due to re-start... Welcome back." Once again use the gavel and this time, pass it to the Chairman

    It is wise to give everyone a minutes warning, so they can take/resume their seats.

    Please keep in mind that a 1-2 minute time limit is placed upon your opening remarks.


    Make a note of any changes announced. Be sure you know the time allocation for each speaker, so you can show the lights and press the buzzer at the correct moment.

    You should never buzz the Area or Division Governor when they are visiting the club.

    When called to give your report, explain your task, and then tell us briefly the results. Do this in broad categories. E.g. A, B, C, D were all under the 60 seconds allocated for Table Topics, but E, F & G were almost exactly on time.

    Please keep in mind that a 1 minute time limit is placed upon your report.


    Check carefully, as you await your turn at the lectern, that everyone has a drink for the toast. If not, ensure they do before taking the lectern.

    Talk briefly on the topic of your toast. Tell us why you chose it, its importance, and its relevance. When you have finished explaining, ask us all to stand and raise our glasses.

    Have a toast of no more than a few words, say them clearly, and then repeat them with us.

    Invite the audience to resume their seats.

    Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit is placed upon this assignment.


    This role introduces each of the speakers and their evaluators to the lectern.

    Before the meeting or at the interval, make a list of all tonight's speakers. Should notice be available, you might like to contact speakers prior to the meeting to find out a little about their speech and any special requirements. It is your job to make the speakers feel secure.

    List the speaker's name, speech title, manual name and speech number, as well as the evaluator's name. Ask each speaker if they have any special requirements e.g. use of the lectern, assistance with props etc.

    Arrange a chair for yourself at each side of the room in order to avoid having to pass the incoming speaker. Place it level with the speaker, so that he/she has to turn no more than 180 degrees when making eye contact with the audience.

    During this part of the meeting, you are the host, so your job is to welcome each speaker to the lectern and try to relax them. You may find it necessary to re-arrange the speaking order according to the speaker’s requirements.

    Announce the details relevant to each speaker (as discussed above). Make sure that we all hear the title (crucial to our enjoyment of the speech), wait for silence and repeat it.

    An effective way to achieve the introduction is:

    • Speaker's name
    • Title of Speech
    • Pause
    • Title of Speech
    • Speaker's name

    Other than a thank-you or perhaps a quick summing up, do not comment on the speech or the speaker, that is the evaluator's territory.

    After the final speaker, you may if you choose, call upon the evaluators in turn. Otherwise hand back to the chairman who will introduce them.

    Um/Ah Counter

    As the meeting progresses, keep a tally of all the sounds and filler words people make when they are thinking of what to say next. Some common things you hear are:

    • um
    • ah
    • err
    • mmm
    • you know
    • right
    • okay
    • so
    • and(when used to fill time)

    When called to give your report explain your task, then tell us briefly the scores. E.g. A,B,C & D had zero, E,F, & G had 2 or 3 each etc. Do not walk us through the list, speaker by speaker as this can become boring.

    You may choose to focus on some other common time waster or repetition that you have noticed members using at the meeting.

    Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit is placed upon your report.


    Simply put, you are acting as host on behalf of us all. You need to be early to allow time to meet the visitors. You need to learn at least their names. Without becoming an inquisitor, you might also ask for brief details, such as past connections with Toastmasters, or how they heard about our club. There are no stock phrases for you to use.

    E.g. start off perhaps by saying, "Mr/Madam Chairman and members, on your behalf I extend a very warm welcome to our guests. First we have ..... who used to be a member at ..... Club. Then ..... who has just settled in Glenmore Park etc. Lastly, a big welcome to our own members."

    Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit is placed upon this assignment.

  • Short speaking assignments

    During our meetings we tend to have a few short assignments to give more people speaking roles.

    A detailed description of each role can be found under each heading. Please keep in mind that a 2-3 minute time limit is placed upon each role.

    Book Review

    Your task is to arouse our interest in any book that has appealed to you. You achieve this by reading to us a passage from it.

    Tell us briefly the aim, the title, and author; then read the passage. Tell us your reaction to the book.

    If Only

    This assignment gives you a chance to allow your imagination to run wild. There is no particular approach. You can make it funny, sad, wistful, whatever. (E.g. If only I had been born a prince…)

    Make it a mini speech rather than a collection of stories.

    Laugh Master

    Toastmasters International puts much emphasis on us all enjoying meetings. Being the Laugh Master gives you a chance to increase that enjoyment.

    1. We suggest that you tell 1/2/3 short jokes within your 2 minute limit. It is better to do that than rely on one long joke that may not work.
    2. All jokes must be clean, no double meanings.
    3. All must be such as to offend no one in any way. This means no references to Race/Religion/Disabilities etc.
    4. You may choose to tell a short humorous story (Fact or Fiction) instead of jokes.

    Listening Master

    Yours is one of those tasks that cannot be prepared for before the meeting, other than ensuring that you have suitable paper and a pen.

    During the course of the meeting, compile about 8 questions to test if we have been really paying attention.

    Explain why you are asking questions. You may choose to set your question first, and then name the receiver. If the first receiver does not know the answer, ask another person. Pass quickly to avoid embarrassing anyone. After asking two of three people without any answer, ask the meeting.


    You might divide the room in two teams and have a competition to see which team can answer most questions correctly.

    Quotable Quotes

    Resist the temptation to produce a string of all your favourites. It is suggested that you restrict yourself to not more than five.

    Tell us the attraction each quote has for you, its author etc. Include the effect each has had on your thinking. Use all your skills to show us the importance of the quotations.

    Poet Master

    This task involves reciting or reading one of your favourite poems. It must fit in the time limit.

    Before starting the poem, tell us some brief background information, e.g. About the poet, the setting etc. Remember, it is your favourite poem, so convey to us your love of it. Use all your skills to do this (expression, body language etc).

    Reading Master

    In this assignment you have the opportunity to read with expression. You may choose to read a passage from a favourite book, or simply read from the daily newspaper or a magazine.

    Your purpose is to read the text with expression, while maintaining eye contact with the audience.

    Recipe Master

    How you tackle this task is up to you. You can treat it at face value and walk us through one of your favourite food recipes. Or you might care to give a humorous/inspirational talk. E.g. A recipe for raising children

    So Embarrassing

    Deliver a mini-speech of a true incident or two that brought you embarrassment. If you have been lucky enough never to have had one, then tell us of someone else's predicament or if you wish, a fictional one.

    If you can make us squirm with you, or laugh with you, then you have presented a good assignment.

    Soap Box

    Again, this is a small speech, designed as such and written to fit within the allocated time. You may choose to devote it all to one topic or to choose a couple.

    If there is one ingredient demanded in this task, it is passion. This has to be evident in the voice and body language. We may not initially share your intensity of feeling towards the subject, however, by the time you have spoken, we should either feel strongly about it, or, at least be left in no doubt about the depth of your feeling on the matter.

    The Best Advice I Ever Received

    There is no set format, except to write is as a short speech. Restrict your assignment to one or two topics. Use all your skills to convince us of the importance of the advice. This assignment can be humorous if you wish.

    Trivia Master

    Many of us love to collect bits of information about topics that many might consider obscure, or conversely, obscure information about well-known subjects. This is your chance to air some of these.

    You might choose to construct your mini-speech around a theme e.g. Cricket, entertainment, or flowers. Ensure that it is a speech and not just a random assortment of unconnected facts.

If you want to print our Guide to Assignments, click the button above to print just the Guide itself.