Every Toastmasters’ meeting has an agenda which is the map the club uses to navigate through the meeting. And the Timekeeper is the Navigator. All participants rely on the Timekeeper to make sure that they stay within their time limits so that everybody gets to participate.
The Timekeeper achieves this by use of subtle (and occasionally, not-so-subtle) signals to the speaker. Using the agenda, the Timekeeper notifies the speaker when they have passed specific thresholds in their time window.
For example, the Grammarian has one to two minutes near the beginning of the meeting to introduce himself / herself, describe the role and introduce the Word of the Day. The Timekeeper would start the stopwatch when the Grammarian starts speaking. At the first threshold, one minute (1:00) in this case, the Timekeeper would turn on the green light. At one minute and thirty seconds (1:30) the Timekeeper activates the amber light. At two minutes (2:00), the red light.
Also, if the speaker goes thirty seconds over the maximum time length, the Timekeeper is allowed to use the “clapper” (this is the not-so-subtle part) to remind the speaker that their time is up. This is at the discretion of the Timekeeper and is not mandatory, although it is highly recommended if the meeting is falling seriously behind the agenda times. A Notable exception to this is the Ice Breaker speech which should never get the clapper.
At Black Walnut, the meeting Toastmaster asks the Timekeeper for guidance before taking a break just before the prepared speeches. The Timekeeper checks the actual times against the agenda and then suggests the duration of the break. Most of the time, the meeting Toastmaster will use the Timekeeper’s suggestion.
As is probably obvious, the Timekeeper role is very demanding and needs to be filled for every meeting. Because of this, the member assigned to the role should not take a second role, write evaluations or perform any other task during the meeting which would require their attention. In most circumstances, the Timekeeper should also not participate in Table Topics.
The good news is that the Timekeeper is a well respected role and carries some prestige for a job well done. Naturally then, being a Timekeeper is one of the requirements for some projects in the Competent Leader manual. Be sure to bring the Competent Leader manual to the meeting so that you can get credit in the book.
Keep on timin’.