All speeches in Toastmasters are timed. In our club, we hold a contest each night for Best Table Topics, Best Speaker, and Best Evaluator. Everyone in the club votes. In order to qualify for the voting, you must meet the timing requirements for your speech. This is true of all Toastmasters contests. For example, if you are responding to a Table Topics question, your “mini speech” needs to meet the timing requirements for Table Topics, which is 1:00 to 2:00 minutes.

There are two pieces of good news: the first is that there is a range of time in which you can fall in order to qualify; you don’t have to hit the time exactly. The range falls just below the “minimum” time for the speech and goes just above the “maximum” time for the speech. For example, Table Topics speeches are said to be “1:00 to 2:00 minutes”. The acceptable range, then (as you can see below), goes from 0:30 seconds (which is 30 seconds less than the “minimum” of 1:00) up to 2:30 (which is 30 seconds greater than the “maximum” of 2:00). All Toastmasters timing requirements follow this -30 / +30 pattern

The second piece of good news is that there is a light directly in your range of vision. This light is controlled by the Voter Timer of the meeting, who is aware of the timing requirements for your speech. The light will turn different colors according to these rules:

  • The light is off initially, and stays off until the time reaches the “minimum” point of your speech’s timing requirements. When the minimum point is reached, the light turns green. This is your queue to quickly asses where you are in your speech compared to where you think you should be by this point. If you are behind, you might have to drop a few lines or points from the end of the body. You still have a little time, though, and there’s no need to rush into your closing just yet. Just know the end is coming fast.
  • The light turns yellow when the halfway point between the “minimum” and “maximum” is reached. At this point, you should be thinking about closing.
  • The light turns red when you reach the “maximum” point of your speech. You have thirty seconds left. The light will stay red. You will not be signaled when the last thirty seconds are up.

The light is not there to create stress for you, however. Think of it as a tool. It keeps you from being surprised when the end of your time comes sooner than you thought it would.

The reference and examples below should help. The detailed timing requirements are always read aloud at the meeting as well, so no need to memorize these. However, if you are the Voter Timer for a meeting, print this page and bring it to the meeting with you.

Table Topics

0:30    Speaker qualifies

1:00    Green light

1:30    Yellow light

2:00    Red light

2:30    Speaker disqualifies

Prepared Speakers

T(min) – 0:30    Speaker qualifies

T(min)           Green light

T(avg)           Yellow light

T(max)           Red light

T(max) + 0:30    Speaker disqualifies


In a 5-7 minute speech, T(min) is 5, T(max) is 7, and T(avg) is the mid-point between the two, so T(avg) = 6.

In a 10-15 minute speech, T(min) is 10, T(max) is 15, and T(avg) is 12:30.


1:30    Speaker qualifies

2:00    Green light

2:30    Yellow light

3:00    Red light

3:30    Speaker disqualifies

Tips for Voter Timers

The clock starts when the speaker begins to actively communicate with the audience. Don’t run the clock while they’re setting up.

As Voter Timer, you are a major part of a speech. If you are late with a light, the speaker’s entire flow may be thrown off. You must be diligent with the start/stop of the clock and with the lights as well. If you are unsure of the timing of a speech or how to fulfill the role, ask someone before the meeting begins. Your first time, you could also ask another member to sit with you and provide guidance.