I would like to continue my series on public speaking, and specifically Spokesman’s Club  by talking a little bit about the duties of a toastmaster, which I served as tonight for the Portland United Church of God Spokesman’s Club. Being a toastmaster can be a bit stressful, and it is a job I have done before, quite often when I was in Tampa and they had a family club (which used a similar format and a slightly streamlined set of speeches). I would like to explain what one does in such a position and a little bit about what makes it so stressful.
On the plus side, being a toastmaster means being a master of ceremonies. In the particular environment of a spokesmen’s club, it means having the responsibility of introducing each speech and setting the tone for each speech, as well as introducing the evaluation of each speech. For example, tonight there were five speeches to introduce and each of the speakers was asked a question (which they all graciously responded to) and I often introduced them with an anecdote about them or me, while leaving their name until the end. As is often the case with me, I tried to blend humor (including at my own expense) with politeness and seriousness, as the situation required. For example, in introducing one speaker, I commented on the fact that he was planning on bringing a relative to the ladies’ brunch, and gave a short story of a time where I did the same thing with a cousin of mine. All in all, everything seemed to go pretty well, though I did not remember to ask for the length of time for each speech.
What makes being a toastmaster somewhat stressful is trying to get information from all of the speakers, or even ensuring that a full roster of speakers will show up. This proved to be an especially trying task for me, as three of the five planned speakers (as well as one of the alternates) was unable to show up, requiring me to work very hard to arrange a full set of speakers. I did my best to be consientious, as a variety of reasons (including school, work, and travel) kept a large part of our planned speakers away. Nonetheless, even given the lack of time that some of the speakers had to prepare, I thought that the evening went off rather well, even if it was more stressful for me than it would have been otherwise.
What made it stressful for me is that I am normally a person who likes to have things planned well ahead of time. Although recent events have forced me to be a great deal better practiced with sudden changes of plans than I would have been otherwise, I still do not consider myself anything close to proficient when it comes to having to make arrangements at the last minute, nor do I enjoy that sort of pressure on a regular basis. I like preparation and stability and the comfort of a familiar and well-oiled machine to the stress of last minute hurrying and unrehearsed behaviors. Perhaps I may be a little bit cautious in that regard, but it is a pretty strong aspect of my own temperament and personality to prefer planning to spontaneous action. A bit of persistence and conscientiousness often pays off, though, and I hope if I am called upon to do the job again that it will be much less stressful.