Toastmasters Skills: Time to Tremble, Trust, and Try


Public speaking is considered one of the most common phobias, being among the top 10 fears and impacting approximately 75% of people. To test myself and grow my skills, I embarked on a new adventure: joining the Toastmasters program.

Don’t know what Toastmasters is? Toastmasters is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking & leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Over 100 years old, Toastmasters serves more than 15,900 clubs & programs in 142 countries with membership exceeding 345,000 members.

Each Toastmasters meeting has a set of roles members volunteer for, and each role develops a particular set of skills. One of those roles is Timekeeper, the person who monitors each speaking portion of the meeting, and this person ensures that participants remain aware of their allocated time frame for speaking as well as coordinating with the Toastmaster of the Day role, the MC, to budget time for each piece of the agenda.

That coordination focuses on the meeting starting and ending within its stated time while accomplishing all objectives and respecting the time of all participants. I set out to master effective time management techniques for myself and any collaborative efforts that I might lead in the future.

Time management is key to success

Effective time management is a key aspect of any successful business, and the Timer role in Toastmasters meetings is designed to hone the requisite component skills for time management: attention, tool use, and communication. How can you inspire members of your team to grow their time management skills? Tie it to serving the growth of their team members.

When considering a speech topic for the Speech with Purpose assignment of my Toastmasters Pathway, I was inspired to become an advocate for the Timer role. After weeks of serving in the Timer role, taking notes & making observations, I distilled the essence of my experiences into a focused phrase “Time is a tool teaching us to tremble, trust, and try.” With this speech, I aimed to inspire listeners to serve others as timekeepers.

I imagine at least a few readers recognize this quote by the White Rabbit from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland film: “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye!’ I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!” Our awareness of time, like going down the rabbit hole to Wonderland, can make an experience feel topsy-turvy.

We have likely all experienced those beautiful moments that seem to pass by in a flash and the moments of boredom that seem to slow. to. a. crawl. Finding the doorway back from Wonderland is what we need in order to return to ourselves, and a doorway back is what the Toastmasters Timer role, or any timekeeper, provides.

Time is money

It is only after we return to ourselves that we can appreciate the full value of the journey we went on. As the saying “Time is money” reflects, both time and money are tools to help us measure value. I will share a thought exercise I heard in the audiobook The Good Life by Robert Waldinger & Marc Schultz. You have a bank account opened at birth. Everything you do requires you to pay out of this account: talking, eating, sleeping, working, cleaning, thinking, and so on and so forth.

You cannot know how much is in the account, and your life ends when the account runs out. Timekeepers, whether they have ticking gears or thinking minds, can serve to facilitate better use of spending from this account, helping us gauge whether we are getting the value we seek from our spending. Like money, time is a tool—a tool teaching us to tremble, trust, and try.

We may be tempted to be tentative at attaining our dreams in hopes of avoiding risks, saying to ourselves “Next time,” or “Tomorrow,” always tomorrow. We tremble at the thought of “Right now! Do it now! Raise your hand! Take the leap!” but this trembling is precisely what activates our attention, setting the stage for engaging the brain’s neuroplasticity.

The trembling is not enough, however. We can get stuck there, caving under the tension created by being simultaneously aware of something yet unable to control it. “Time takes time.” When going somewhere as a family, my dad would often say “We’re off like a herd of turtles.” Then my mom would add “And Casey is the turtliest of all.”

Having me tag along at the store was torturous for her at my toddler pace. I had to trust in her as my timekeeper while I grew in body, knowledge, and skill; and she as a first-time mom needed to trust her decisions on when to wait and when to pull. Successful parents know the Timer role all too well.

Success is often about timing

Whether harvesting fresh strawberries to capture summer sweetness into jam for the Fall and Winter months or aligning a key headcount increase request for your team with the company’s budget cycle, success is often about timing. If you have worked through the trembling and learned to trust, then the next step is to try. I have a riddle for you. There are three frogs sitting on a floating log. One frog decides to jump off. Now how many frogs are on the log?

Three. The frog had only decided to jump. The next step was to execute, and of course, “There’s no time like the present”.

You took the trip down the rabbit hole; you trembled then trusted then tried. You may be asking yourself “What now? How do I determine the value of the time I spent trembling, trusting, and trying?” Taking measurements while in the moment is not only a tricky skill to master but also may not even be beneficial to the experience. If that is the case, what should we do? Enlist the support of a timekeeper.

Let me share a story of a timekeeper dear to my heart – my husband. After graduating from Grand Valley State University, I felt listless – no longer wanting the job I had gone to school for yet also not knowing what direction I wanted to go. I was stuck in the trembling phase, feeling the time pressure but not trusting myself and not trying any consequential action.

One day my husband, whom I met during my university stint, confronted my lack of belief in myself. He told me the time I spent on my education was valuable, and that many people do not even finish their degree. He told me I needed to honor the time I spent by striving for more. By taking on the role of timekeeper, he helped me understand that, while that time is already spent, the value of that time could continue to grow if I tried. He showed me the doorway out of Wonderland back to myself. That is how I am here at CU*Answers today writing this CUSO Mag article about inspiring better time management.

Tremble, trust, and try. It’s worth the effort.

Taking the Timer role in a Toastmasters meeting is exactly that—agreeing to be a little bit less in the moment for yourself; using tools to measure, communicate, and record; and sharing the results on how your fellow Toastmasters are spending their time developing communication and leadership skills. They get up there to speak—trembling, trusting, and trying—all the while serving your peers in their journey as Timekeeper. Yes, it can be challenging to pay attention, use your tools, and record the results while participating in real-time, but recognize the effort for the valuable service to your community that it is.

Challenge yourself to seek support from the timekeepers available to you: the timer app on your phone or computer or even a good old-fashioned stopwatch; your calendar, physical or digital; and your teammates, friends, and family. Offer yourself in the cooperative spirit as a timekeeper to maximize the value of time spent in meetings, to organize and assess progress for your team’s projects, and to share the hard-won results with stakeholders.

Consider joining your local Toastmasters program and trying the Timer role to practice skills you can bring to any other organization. Let time be the tool that teaches all of us to tremble, trust, and try.


  • Casey Folkertsma

    A native Michigander born & raised in Grand Rapids, core expressions of Casey’s values are efforts toward localized leadership & connection, sharing of knowledge, and nurturing growth mindset for individuals & organizations. Finding synergy between her own values & the 7 Cooperative Principles, Casey joined the Network Services department of CU*Answers in 2019. Casey is always open to connect with others on topics like technology, empowerment, financial products, local business, reconciliation, and beyond.

  • andrea Ingersoll#1

    June 7, 2024

    Casey, what a great article, and even more, great intro to our Toastmasters Club. Not only are you a great speaker and timekeeper, but also a very talented writer. Keep writing, I look forward to more articles from you. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights about time in general.
    All the Best!

    • Casey Folkertsma#2

      June 7, 2024

      I appreciate the kind words of support, Andrea. They will help fuel me as I work toward my next Toastmasters challenge!


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