Toastmasters: the secret timer

In a Toastmasters club, one of the functionaries is the Timer.

The duty of the timer is to keep the club on schedule relative to the club’s agenda, and to keep notes on the amount of time each presenter uses. At the end of the meeting, they give a report outlining how long each person spoke for, and whether they met their minimum or maximum times, and whether they went over.

To aid the Speakers in the moment, though, they show cards or turn on lights, that display green (for the minimum time), yellow (for approaching halfway between minimum and maximum time), and red (maximum time. Thank your audience and wrap up).

The other day, my club had no cards for the Timer to put up and display to the audience.  Our VP of Education, Mark, improvised.  He pulled a trio of highlighters from the office supplies in a basket in the room  — green, yellow and red — and laid them down on the table.  As the time markers passed on his stopwatch, he stood them up on the table.  Like lightning, we realized he’d created a secret way to mark time.  Without knowing the code, without waving at the speaker or drawing attention to himself, he’d used .

In a sense, they were more useful than cards.  Imagine that you and another toastmaster are in a meeting together with an audience.  One of you can be the evaluator and timer, while the other gives a speech.  The timer has given you a clear way of letting you know what the time limits and requests are, while at the same time not cluing in the whole audience to the fact that the speech is being timed.  The speaker now has a visual clue in the meeting (with clients, with suppliers, with creditors, with outsiders, with insiders) of how much time has passed, and still has a chance to be gracious and not drone on and on for lengthy periods of time.

Try it in your own meetings, and see if it proves as useful to you, as it did to us.

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