It's all about the timing

I went to a Toastmasters speech competition last night – not as a competitor (I’m not quite experienced enough for that yet!), but I did end up having a role: they needed someone to be the timer, keeping a note of how long each speaker spoke for, and operating the warning lights.  Toastmasters puts a lot of emphasis on keeping to time limits.  Each speaker gets given a time limit for their speech (usually expressed as a range, like 5-7 minutes), and you’re expected to keep your speech within those limits.  The timer operates a series of green, orange and red lights that come on to tell you when you’re within the limits – the green light comes on at the minimum time, then orange a minute later, and finally the red comes on at the maximum time.  In a competition if you stop speaking before the green light comes on, or continue speaking after the red light comes on, then you can be disqualified (there’s a little bit of leeway given either side, basically just enough to finish your sentence), but even in just ordinary club meetings we use the lights, so you can see how you’re doing and practice speaking to a time limit.
It was really interesting – it’s always great to see the really good speakers perform, and especially to hear speeches that you’d already heard them give in club meetings – you get to see how they’ve improved and polished the speech up to competition level based on the feedback they got at the club.  Of course, I couldn’t concentrate fully on the speeches, as I had to keep one eye on the stopwatch all the time, but I still learnt a lot, and had an entertaining evening.

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One Comment

  1. That sounds interesting. I’ve never been to a Toastmaster’s event or to a debate either. I’ve seen Presidential campaign debates on TV.

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