Toastmasters Etiquette

Toastmaster’s Etiquette is a unique skill each member develops over the tenure of their membership in our organization.  It is the attention to small details that sets us apart from the average speaker and helps define us as professionals.  Good techniques in Toastmaster’s etiquette will create confidence in the speaker and bring kudos from their audience.  Teaching these etiquettes at the club level sets members up for success as club ambassadors when they speak beyond the club at other Toastmaster events and when they speak outside of the world of Toastmasters.

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Control of the Meeting

Each portion of the meeting is under the control of one of the key meeting officials: Presiding Officer, Chairperson, Contest Chair, Toastmaster, Table Topics Master and General Evaluator.

Control of a meeting is passed from one official to another by shaking hands whenever each key meeting official arrives at the lectern.  This is called passing control of the meeting.  Thus, the Presiding Officer passes control to the Toastmaster of the Day who later passes control to the Table Topics Master and then to the General Evaluator.  When the key meeting official is finished with his/her portion of the meeting, control is returned to the proper official with a handshake, i.e. control passes from the General Evaluator to the Toastmaster to Presiding Officer.

Whenever you take control of the meeting you should acknowledge the person who yielded control to you.  This can be done by a simple thank you.  If you are the person yielding control you do not sit until you have been acknowledged.


In order to establish credibility and set the Speaker up for success include interesting background points in your introductions:

Verify designation (CC, AC, DTM).

Announce any Toastmaster’s office held.

Personalize your introduction to warm-up the audience.

Be creative with introductions to pique audience interest in the topic and the speaker.

Audience Etiquette

Always be respectful and pay attention to anyone at the lectern.  Avoid conversations with other audience members during the meeting and do not make unnecessary noises or engage in other distracting activities.  Whenever anyone is called to come to the lectern, applaud that person from the moment he/she rises from his/her seat until he/she reaches the lectern.  If you are the person in control, lead the applause.  This helps create a welcoming environment for anyone coming up to the lectern.  Pay attention to the presenter to avoid distracting the speaker. Respect the speaker, even if you disagree with their point of view.  Avoid interrupting the speaker with asides and/or comments.  If you must leave and/or enter the room, do so during a break in the speech or applause.  When the Speaker’s speech/presentation is over applause should continue until the person leaving the lectern sits down.

Lectern Etiquette

There are accepted conventions of meeting protocol which are a part of a well-run meeting.  While these conventions may seem overly formal to some people or in some instances, their usage contributes greatly toward a professionally conducted meeting.

Never leave the lectern unattended.  If you are introducing the Speaker, after your introduction wait until the speaker arrives at the lectern.  While the Speaker is approaching the lectern applaud him/her all the way to the lectern.  Always wait at the lectern until the next Speaker arrives.  It is poor etiquette to simply pass the Speaker, shake hands over the lectern or just nod to him/her.  Shake his/her right hand as acknowledgment and say a few cordial words of greeting before walking away.  Begin the transition, step back to avoid collision as you leave the area.

When you relinquish control of the lectern never cross the path of or walk behind the person that you are relinquishing control to.  The preferred etiquette suggests that you step back, away from or pivot and move in the opposite direction of the person who now has control of the lectern.  For this reason seating arrangements are usually made prior to the meeting.  Speakers are either assigned designated seating or chairs are placed to the left and right of the lectern so that the Toastmaster is able to move and seat themselves in either direction.  When possible or necessary it is preferred that you walk around the perimeter of the audience/room to return to your seat rather than cross the path of or walk behind the person that you are relinquishing control to.

Note:  The Lectern is the speaker’s stand.  A Podium is what the speaker stands on.

As a Speaker

Here are some important points to keep in mind when you are speaking:

The Toastmaster of the Day (TMOD) is addressed as either Mister Toastmaster or Madam Toastmaster.  A female TMOD is never referred to as “Madam Toastmistress.”

The General Evaluator (GE) is addressed as either Mister General Evaluator or Madam General Evaluator.

During a meeting, the preferred Toastmaster method for addressing fellow members is as follows:  Toastmaster “________” (last name).

Notify the appropriate individual (i.e. Sergeant-at-Arms) in advance of any special arrangements (i.e. removal of lectern) to avoid unnecessary disruptions in your presentation or audience distractions.

It is important that you think ahead and be prepared when you are speaking, situate yourself for easy access to the lectern/podium.

Minimize transition time and move promptly to the lectern when you are introduced.

Shake hands with TMOD or anyone from whom you take control of the lectern.

Proper etiquette requires that you wait until the Toastmaster is seated before speaking and if the TMOD follows etiquette procedures they will not be seated until addressed by the Speaker.

Example of this transitions:

The Toastmaster of the Day, Sue, introduces the prepared speaker, John.  Sue waits at the lectern until John arrives, shakes John’s right hand and wishes him well.  Sue walks to her seat or waits off to the side.  She does not sit down until John acknowledges her by saying, “Thank you, Madame Toastmaster.”  Only then should she take her seat.

When you begin speaking address the person who gave you control

For Example:

Madam or Mister Table Topics Master

Madam or Mister Toastmaster

Madam or Mister General Evaluator

Madam or Mister President

Acknowledge your audience before beginning to speak on your topic.

It is recommended that you stand when addressing groups of ten or more people.

Do not apologize for nervousness or lack of preparation it will only serve to draw unnecessary attention and negatively impact your speech/presentation.

Project your voice to those seated in the back of the room.

Avoid turning your back on the audience.

Refrain from leaning on the lectern.

Be flexible, well-prepared and stay with-in time limits.

Pause for audience response.

Avoid off-color humor or topics.

Think of your message as a gift to the audience and avoid ‘thank you’ as a conclusion to your speech.

When you are finished speaking always mention the person from whom you took control of lectern.

For Example:

Madam or Mister Table Topics Master

Madam or Mister Toastmaster

Madam or Mister General Evaluator

Madam or Mister President

Keep the rules of lectern etiquette in mind at the conclusion of your speech, never say, “I will now turn over the lectern to”.   Instead say:  “I relinquish control” or “I return control to….”

Shake hands with TMOD or anyone to whom you relinquish control of the lectern.

Accepting Awards:

Be mentally and physically prepared to acknowledge an award.  When accepting, be graceful and brief with your remarks.  If requested to do so, pause for photos at the lectern or move from the stage area for the photo.

Business Meeting

The business portion of the meeting should follow Robert’s Rules of Order.


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