For a new member walking in to a meeting can be a nervous experience. No matter how much we tell you you’ll get a warm welcome (which you will) you might still have doubts and questions. This piece was written by a member about the first time they attended a meeting.

As I approached the door, I felt nervous. I’d been interested in Toastmasters for along while but never found the time to go before. Now, I discovered there was one locally, so I had no excuse. Still I was worried. Would I know anyone, would anyone speak to me, would I have to speak in front of them? Within second of walking in the door all three questions were answered.

A typical toastmasters meeting room. Image source: TripAdvisor

I was greeted by a very friendly woman who welcomed me warmly, asked if I was a first time guest (apparently they often get visitors from other clubs) and took my money. I was told it would cover the room hire and tea/coffee later on. She also gave me a copy of the agenda for the night which listed all the activities I could expect. She also assured me that I wasn’t required to speak but I was more than welcome to get involved in the Topics session (whatever that is…I’d soon find out).

The room was lovely and bright with a wonderful view of the lake. I sat down beside someone who said hello and asked if this was my first night there? He was a member and was lovely and friendly. He said he hoped I enjoyed the night and told me a little about what would happen from the agenda. There were some very strange job titles on it Toastmaster, Topicsmaster, Sergeant-at-Arms!!! He told me each of them had a job that helped the meeting run smoothly and that most roles changed every meeting. Once the meeting started each of them would give a short explanation of the job they were doing apparently.

The meeting started right on time…can’t remember when that happened anywhere before… and the Club President opened the meeting. We were warmly welcomed, including us guests. It seems to be a very welcoming place. After a short introduction the Toastmaster took over who explained they would run the first half of the meeting, introduce the people on our agenda and then hand over the meeting to the General Evaluator for the second half after tea/coffee. As promised the Toastmaster called forward each person who had a job on the agenda to explain their role. Each explanation only lasted maybe thirty seconds to a minute, but I had a better idea of what to expect afterwards. The roles might have had strange sounding names e.g. Scribe, the General Evaluator mentioned already etc. but they all seemed to make sense. Everyone who explained their role was warmly clapped when introduced and again after their explanation. It seemed very encouraging.

The Toastmaster introduced the Topicsmasters. The idea behind Topics is that members (guests wouldn’t be asked) are asked to speak on a random topic – that they hadn’t prepared – for up to two minutes. After that a bell would be rung. We were told the two minutes was something to aim for but contributions of any length would be welcome. It was all about practicing speaking off the cuff. Once the first speaker on a topic spoke it would be open to anyone to make a follow on contribution on that topic for up to a minute an add-on) and us guests were more that welcome to do so whether we had one sentence to say or thought we could get to the minute.
There were some very interesting topics and none of them seemed too difficult. Members were asked whether they preferred books or films, about their favourite holiday destination and what they like to do on the weekend. Some stayed speaking for the two minutes, some spoke for a shorter period, some seemed very experienced and one said it was their first time. There was a very encouraging atmosphere in the room and again each person got a round of applause. There were lots of add-ons. Overall, there was a lot of good-humoured laughter which helped put everyone at ease. I didn’t want to do an add-on tonight but I might give it a go at a future meeting.

After the Topic session finished the meeting was handed back to the Topicsmaster who introduced,one by one, the four people who were going to deliver speeches they had prepared. Each had been assigned a person who would evaluate their speech after the tea break.
The first person up was doing an icebreaker speech. Apparently, this is the first speech that all members give when they start giving prepared speeches. We ere told about their life growing up and it was really fascinating. I would have been terrified but she didn’t appear to be. The next speaker talked about their adventures on holiday. We also had a speech on why grass is green – radiation apparently – which was very interesting. That speaker had been in Toastmasters for a year or two, but I wouldn’t have thought you could make watching grass grow sound interesting, but it was. The last speaker spoke about a project they had carried out and it was fascinating. Each speaker was warmly welcomed up to speak again with a round of applause and got another one when they finished.