The Timer role is an excellent role for a beginner; in fact, it was my first meeting role. Luckily, Toastmasters International not only supplies a script and useful log for the Timer role, but there’s also an excellent supplement: Megan Preston Meyer’s The Timer’s Toolkit. Rather than repeat what’s in her article, I’ll add a few tidbits, for both virtual and in-person meetings. My club uses Zoom; however, your preferred remote meeting program likely has similar features.
Even though this is a simple role, it does require some preparation, especially for a beginner. Learn what the minimum and maximum times are for each speech. While most are 5-7 minutes, Icebreakers are 4-6. I have found that many Level 4 electives tend to be shorter or longer. Take the average of the minimum and maximum times to figure out the midpoint, at which time you’ll show the yellow card. Also, prepare your timing device. I like to use an Apple Watch (more on that below). If you’re meeting in-person, chances are you’ll use the official Toastmasters timing cards or another timing device that’s established by your club. However, if you’re meeting virtually, you’ll either use virtual backgrounds or color cards of your choosing. Finally, as with most of the roles, prepare your script for how you’ll introduce the role and the results.
There’s a grace period of 30 seconds. If a speaker goes beyond the allotted maximum time plus thirty seconds, then that speaker will be disqualified. Note that this disqualification simply means that the speaker will not be eligible to win an award for the meeting, but the speech will still count for Pathways. For our club’s in-person meetings, once a speaker goes beyond the grace period, the Timer will ring a cowbell. For virtual meetings, our club doesn’t have a standard; however, one of our members flashed between the Zoom red timer background and a different background. I thought that was effective. You could also try waving your hands, or even unmuting yourself and making some sort of noise, perhaps with your smartphone. Note that contests work differently; if a speaker exceeds the grace period, no indications are given. I’ll write more about that when I describe the Timer’s role in contests.
Be prepared to time breaks. Our club allows a one minute break between speeches in order for our members to prepare feedback. As a Timer, you may also have the responsibility of timing additional breaks in the meeting.
For virtual meetings, the Timer should add in the script to pin the Timer. If the Timer is not on the screen, then it’s a lot easier to go over or under the allocated time, especially for Table Topics.
Not all computers can handle Zoom backgrounds. If yours can’t, you can try one of the alternatives listed in The Timer’s Toolkit.
Some computers can handle Zoom backgrounds, but make the foreground glitchy. If the background is bleeding too much into the foreground, there’s a trick you can use: simply cover up your camera with a small Post-it Note. Use this method carefully, however; being off screen may make some speakers feel uncomfortable that their speeches aren’t being timed. If this technique is used, it may be best for the Timer to say something like, “I’m ready to Time” or even give a Zoom reaction, like thumb’s up.
Here’s a cautionary tale about preparation. As I’ve written previously, my timing device of choice is an Apple Watch. When I first signed up to be a Timer, however, I used the wrong program. I used an app that counted down (Timer) instead of up (Stopwatch). This required calculations. Worst of all, there was an advanced speech that meeting that went well beyond the usual seven minutes. While my stint as a Timer was successful, I had unwittingly made it harder than it needed to be. As Megan Preston Meyer says in her article, you may enjoy the challenge; however, it wasn’t a good idea for a beginner!
As always, contact one of your club members if you have questions. Many of your club’s members have taken on the Timer role, and can give you guidance.
That’s it for the Timer role. I strongly suggest you read Toastmasters International’s advice about the Timer role. It’s time… to take on the Timer role!
Question: Have you ever been a Timer for your club, and did you enjoy the role?