How to be a Toastmasters Timer

Learning to keep track of time is an important skill. In business, it’s often easy to lose track of time in meetings. This occurs when some people in the meeting go off on a tangent, or can’t get the point. If all meetings had a dedicated timekeeper, people would learn to better prepare, and respect the time of others more.

In Toastmasters, we are lucky enough to have someone that keeps everything on schedule. That function is that of the Timer. At first glance, this seems like a simple role. You look at a stopwatch, or clock app on your phone and do something to present if a speaker is on track. This is often down through pieces of green, yellow, and red paper wave in the air. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your role as Timer.

Pre-meeting communication

As the timer, you need to communicate with the speakers prior to the meeting. You need to understand which speech they are doing, and what the acceptable time frames are. For instance, an icebreaker speech should last anywhere between 4-6 minutes. A standard speech should have a duration of 5-7 minutes, and advanced speeches are 13-15 minutes.

Speak up or Signal

There are many moments during the meeting where time can easily go off track. Table topics, or when the Presiding Officer or mentor are speaking an example of this. When you are the timer, you must keep track of time during these moments.

For example, as the Table Topics master is asking questions you need to alert them when one minute is remaining. Do this during a transition between responses. Don’t be afraid to speak up and say “one minute remaining”. This will prepare the Table Topics master to either ask for one or two responses or wrap it up early with a few seconds to spare.


During your introduction at the beginning of the meeting inform that audience that once they cross a certain time, they will be “clapped off” of the stage. This is an extremely difficult skill to manage, as you are cutting off the speaker. Without doing this, the speaker can consume more time, and cut into the time designated for other speakers.

Of course, at the end of the meeting, you need to inform the speakers and evaluators of their times. By providing them with this information, they can learn how their speech differs between practice and present.

Remember, keeping the meeting on time is your responsibility.  As the Timer, you control the finite resource of the entire meeting.

Use your power wisely.