Meeting Roles: Timekeeper

You help members to be disciplined with time

Main responsibilities 

  • To explain the purpose of timekeeping. 
  • To time and help participants to keep to time. 
  • To provide timekeeping reports.  

Before the meeting 

  • Prepare and practice your introduction.
  • Explain that the green, amber and red lights show speakers the minimum, standard and maximum time as indicated on the agenda. 
  •  Here is an example of the timekeeper’s introduction for a regular meeting:        

          [Timekeeper shakes Toastmaster’s hand]

Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests.

One of the important lessons to be learned on the path to becoming a competent speaker is to be able to express a thought within a specific amount of time. To this end, every Toastmasters meeting has an official Timekeeper who records time for all of the participants and provides timing reports at various points throughout the meeting.

Today it’s my pleasure to be your Timekeeper.

[show a copy of the agenda]

If you look at your printed agenda, you will see three numbers next to each of the speaking slots with three corresponding colours – green, amber and red.

The number in green is the minimum expected duration in minutes for that slot. At this point, I will show the speaker the green light. Like this…

[assistant operates the green light]

The number in yellow is in the middle of the timing range and at this point, I will show the speaker the yellow – or amber – light.

[assistant operates the amber light]

When the speaker sees the amber light they should start thinking about wrapping up their speech.

Finally, the number in red is the maximum expected duration for the slot. At this point, I will show the red light.

[assistant operates the red light]

When a speaker sees the red light they must wrap up their speech as quickly as possible. Anyone still speaking thirty seconds after the red light has appeared will hear the gavel (or the bell).

Madam Toastmaster…

[shakes hands] 

  • You do not have to follow the script word by word, you are encouraged to use your own script. 
  • Consider the introduction of your role as a mini-speech, as an opportunity to gain experience. 

Upon arrival at the meeting 

  • Practice with the lights and timer.
  • The timing equipment is given by the Sergeant at Arms (SAA) – make sure that all three lights and the timer are in good working order. 
  • Get a copy of the agenda (provided by the SAA). 
  • Arrange for someone to hold up the lighting system and demonstrate whilst you are on stage for your introduction. 

During the meeting 

  • Introduce the role of the Timekeeper.  
  • You will be introduced by the Toastmaster. Shake his hands and give your introduction. 
  • Time the speakers. 
  • Reset the timer before each speaker starts. 
  • Press start at the speaker’s first (verbal or non-verbal) communication with the audience. 
  • Press stop when the speaker hands back to the Toastmaster. 
  • Switch the lights on at the appropriate moment. 
  • Take note of how long they spoke for and when called on stage, say their name, timings as well as a very brief description of what their speech was about (optional). 
  • Be strict! Ring the bell when people go over the grace period (30 seconds after the red light). It will help them learn and help the meeting finish on time. 
  • Exceptions can be made for Ice Breakers and General Evaluators (GEs).