Time Keeper

Role introduction

The Timekeeper role is extremely important to the overall running of our meetings as the programme typically includes contributions from up to 10 people! It’s a very busy role but also pretty straightforward and is usually the first role offered to new members. It’s also a great opportunity to get experience of being on the stage and speaking in public. The Timekeeper’s function is to provide timing signals to most of the participants and to report specifically on the timing performance of prepared speakers, evaluators and topics speakers. The reports also remind the audience, if voting for their favourite speakers, of the names of each person and their subject.


Using the published programme as a checklist, review the activities to be timed ‐ all timings are printed down the right hand column in the form: e.g. 4/5/6

  • Green light at 4 minutes (shortest time for the contribution)
  • Amber at 5 (halfway from shortest to maximum time)
  • Red at 6 (longest time allowed).

If a speaker goes significantly past the maximum time (10 seconds for warm up, 30 seconds for table topics, a minute for other contributions) then the bell should be rung (NOTE: a bell is not used in competitions).

During the meeting:

Aim to arrive 15 minutes before the formal start of the meeting in order to check on arrangements and familiarise yourself with the operation of the lights and stopwatch ‐ liaise with the Sergeant‐at‐Arms (or other members) if you have any problems.

  1. Start operation of the timing lights when the Sergeant at Arms opens the meeting and for every subsequent function where timings are indicated
  2. You will then be introduced by the Toastmaster and asked to explain the role of Timekeeper and the times on the programme. Include a demonstration of the lights and the bell i.e.
    – The first number is the minimum time a speaker should aim to speak for and is indicated by the green light.
    – The amber light indicates the middle number and the mid way between the minimum and maximum speaking time allowed.
    – When the maximum time allowed has been reached, the third number, a red light will go on.
    – If a speaker significantly overruns, a bell will sound. This means that a speaker must stop talking and return to their seat!
  3. In the first half of the meeting, if there is a warm up exercise, make sure that you time each participant (15 seconds). If a participant over-­‐runs (10 seconds, ring the bell firmly to keep things moving!)
  4. Also during the 1st half, specifically record the names, subjects and timings for each prepared speaker (and remember to ring the bell if a speaker overruns the red light by 1 minute). Report clearly on these when called by the Toastmaster.
  5. After the break, continue with timings where indicated and specifically record the names, subjects and timings for each Evaluator (don’t forget the Table Topics Evaluator!) and report clearly on these when called by the Toastmaster (after the TT Evaluator has given their report).
  6. Keep a specific record of the times for each table topics speaker – with their names and subjects.
  7. When called by the Toastmaster, briefly announce the names, subjects and times for the table topics speakers and comment on any that seriously overran the target time.


  • Remember that the timekeeping role is a valuable speaking opportunity and it can be quite a challenge to bring some clarity and originality to it. Can you make it interesting?
For example…
  • Try to mention something funny which was said or give a little one line reminder of what the topic of the speech was. For example a member spoke about a boat called the Thames Bubbler and mentioned that they may serve champagne, hence the name. In your report you could say something like “and Paul King spoke for 1 minute 14 seconds about cork popping fun on the Thames Bubbler.”It serves as a reminder to the voting audience and gives you a chance to say a bit more, and be creative with your words.
  • Check the timings with all those doing prepared speeches as different speeches allow different times. For example the icebreaker is 4‐6 minutes, speeches 2­‐9 in the first manual are 5­‐7 minutes and speech 10 is 8­‐10 minutes, but advanced speeches can be up to 15 minutes so it is very important to check this first as it could really impact on someone’s progress if you stop them mid flow due to Timekeeper’s error.
  • Check the lights all work, it would be very embarrassing if you discover a bulb has blown at a crucial moment! The Sergeant‐At­‐Arms is in charge of the equipment, make sure you introduce yourself before the meeting and find out where spare bulbs are kept, just in case.
  • The Table Topics section can be very confusing for the Time Keeper but don’t panic, timing is only an aid for the speakers in the Table Topics, if you encounter a problem you can always make up the time without upsetting anyone!
  • Although it appears in the programme that the Timekeeper is running the actual votes, don’t worry ‐ this is taken care by the Toastmaster once the Timekeeper has given their report.
  • Above all, being Timekeeper is an opportunity to get involved in the club, an excuse to get talking to people and a really nice and relaxed introduction to speaking in front of an audience
  • Finally, if you have not completed your Competent Leadership Award and still need this role signed­‐up you should: (A) give your CL manual to another member before the meeting starts with the required role identified and ask her/him to complete the required section; and (B) ensure you cover all of the objectives of the selected CL Project during your performance of the role.