While the Club Member Roles page mentions the vast majority of possible meeting roles, you may find that your club offers additional roles. For example, you may have an Invocation Speaker or a Joke Master. Some clubs also have a Word Master, who announces a Word of the Day and notices its usage throughout the meeting. Astute readers may realize that this task is a subset of the Grammarian’s responsibilities, so if you have a Grammarian role in your club, you already have a Word Master. I’ll write more about this once I cover the Grammarian role. This post, however, is all about the Listener!

Have you ever harbored a secret fantasy to be a game show host, or at least be able to write the clues? Being a Listener is a bit like that! You’ll listen to the various speeches and table topics in order to formulate questions for your fellow club members to answer. Listening is a crucial skill, and some people even join Toastmasters in order to increase their listening abilities.

Here are the some guidelines for the Listener:

Formulate questions that can be reasonably answered. If someone has to take notes in order to answer the question, that’s probably a bit too difficult! Remember that this is supposed to measure listening skills, and is not meant to be a college test. If you, the Listener, wouldn’t be able to answer the question, then likely nobody else will. Here are some ideas about how to formulate good questions:

  • You can ask questions about dates. This can work well if only an handful of dates are mentioned throughout the speech. For example, a possible question could be: “When did Dan graduate from college?”
  • You can ask questions where the answer is a number. Similarly to questions about dates, if the speech is filled with many numbers, this may not work well. Also, try to stick with numbers that are easy to remember. For example, “42” or “100” would be fine answers, while “16,821” may not work well. You can still ask these sorts of questions; however, be prepared to accept answers that are “close enough,” like “16,000” or “16,500.” Also, it’s better to ask these types of questions if the number is explicitly stated in the speech. For example, if Joshua mentioned that his recipe for Crème Brûlée contains five ingredients, that would be fairly easy to answer. However, if Joshua kept repeating “The next ingredient is,” that would be harder to answer.
  • Answers that are nouns – proper or otherwise – tend to work well. For example, “What’s the name of Barry’s spouse?” would be a good question.
  • Answers that are adjectives or adverbs may be harder to answer. However, if the answer is an unusual word or is repeated often in the speech, this could work.
  • Avoid asking overly esoteric questions, such as: “Kelly used a twelve letter word in her speech. What was it?”
  • Don’t ask questions that are answered directly by a speaker’s speech title, such as: “Barbara’s speech was about what breed of cat?” when the title of the speech was “All About Russian Blue Cats.” These questions may be a tad too easy to answer!

Be cognizant of time. Since the Listener report is towards the end of the meeting, the Toastmaster can see if the meeting is running on track, running late, or even early. A full agenda may mean that only one question is asked per speech, and table topics is not even covered. Conversely, if the meeting has light participation, you could ask two or three questions per speech, ask about various table topic answers, and even delve into other parts of the meeting. Ask the Toastmaster if you have questions about the schedule.

For online meetings, everyone’s microphone can be turned on during the Listener portion. This can be accomplished by the Zoom (or other online program) master, or each participant can turn on their own microphones. Alternatively, answers can be submitted via chat.

The Listener role is a fun one, and I highly encourage you to sign up for this role if your club offers it. It’s highly satisfying when questions are successfully answered. It likely means that the speeches were entertaining and well structured. It also means that you, the Listener, asked good questions. Perhaps most importantly of all, it also means that your club’s members were paying attention!

Question: Have you ever been a Listener, and if so, what did you like about the role?