Toastmasters International Frequently Asked Questions


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12. What's all this emphasis on time limits?

As noted above, speeches have time limits, Table Topics have time limits (usually 1 - 2 minutes) and evaluations have time limits (usually 2 - 3 minutes). This is in order to emphasize that a good speaker makes effective use of the time allotted and does not keep going and going until the audience is bored. In the real world, quite often there are practical limits on how long a meeting can or should last; by setting time limits on speeches and presentations, participants learn brevity and time management, and the members can expect the club meeting to end on schedule.

Time limits are rarely enforced to the letter. In only a few situations will you find yourself cut off if you go too long, and that's up to the individual club. Most clubs don't cut speakers off if they go overtime.

It is common for clubs to use a set of timing signals to warn the speakers of the advance of time. All speeches and presentations have a time limit expressed as an interval, e.g. 5 to 7 minutes. A green signal would be shown at 5 minutes, yellow at 6, and red at 7. In Table Topics, the signals would go 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, and 2 minutes respectively, and in evaluations, the signals would go 2 minutes, 2 minutes 30 seconds, and 3 minutes. When the green signal is shown, you've at least spoken enough, though you need not finish right away, and when the yellow signal is shown, you should begin wrapping up. If you're not done by the time the red signal is shown, you should finish as soon as possible without mangling the ending of your speech.

The only times you're actually penalized for going over or under time is in speaking competition; in speech contests you must remain within the interval or be disqualified.

Some clubs hold an audience vote for "best speaker", "best topic speaker", and "best evaluator" during the meeting. It's a practice in some clubs to disqualify people who go over or under time from these meeting awards. Check with the particular club to see what they do.

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