Thursday, August 28, 2014

Functionaries: The Ah Counter

There are three functionaries at every meeting of Toastmasters. At Cromwell Community Toastmasters, our members sign up to be functionaries on our meeting agenda ahead of time; but at other clubs they're "voluntold" at the start of a meeting.  Those officers are:
  1. The Grammarian
  2. The Ah-Counter
  3. The Timer
Each of those functionaries is there to hold you to a specific standard as a public speaker, and you can make use of the feedback they give you at the end of each meeting.  To my mind, the Ah-Counter is the single most important functionary: here's what they do.
The Ah-Counter listens to every speaker and evaluator, listening for filler words such as "and..." "so, anyway", and "like....".  They also listen for pauses when you are making noises with your mouth, such as "uh..." and "umm..."  The Ah-Counter keeps a running total of the noises that you make, and reports back to you at the end of the meeting.
Why is this the most important functionary?  Those sounds you're making are distracting your listeners.  Studies have demonstrated that most of the time, you yourself are not even aware that you're making these sounds. It's important to growing your powers as a public speaker that you make yourself aware of those sounds, and that you learn to curb them in your speeches and your off-the-cuff remarks.

As important as the job of being the Ah-Counter is, though, it's also important not to take this role too often.  No one wants to be the person who has practiced listening for those sounds so often, that they can't hear anything else in the speech!

So remember: thank your club's Ah-Counters often, and take their counting skills to heart; and take your own turn at the Ah-Counter's chair from time to time — remembering to get credit toward your competent leadership award along the way!  But don't sit there too often — you want to listen to speeches too, and not simply get caught in evaluating how the message is presented.

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