Thursday, July 16, 2015

What's up with the lights?

During my first visit to a Toastmasters Club, I noticed these lights. It looked like something you would see at a busy intersection. I asked the person who invited me to explain. She just asked me to wait, because an explanation would be coming early in the meeting.

I patiently waited, and eventually the General Evaluator asked the "Timer" to explain their role - actually he called it his function. While trying to remember the creative and meaningful jargon, I was impressed with the brief description. This was the description he gave, while standing ...
"Thank you Mr. General Evaluator. The timing lights are used as a signal to the speaker. You will notice that there are three lights - green, amber and red. Depending on the length of the speech, a green light signals that they have spoken for the minimal amount of time, the amber light signals that their time is expiring, and the red light signals that they have reached their maximum allotted time and have 30 seconds to conclude their speech. The red light will remain on until the speaker has finished speaking. For example, with a 5-7 minute speech, the green light is on at 5 minutes, the amber is on 6 minutes and the red is on at 7 minutes."
That was impressive, I thought to myself. At a Toastmasters club, being able to deliver an effective message in a prescribed period of time is a prized skill. You might be surprised at how many people go over. However, the use of timing lights provide a subtle and noticeable cue for the speaker. Imagine, the next time you are given a couple of minutes to respond to a question, that you effortlessly speak succinctly and briefly. Imagine that everyone at the meeting is able to do the same ... those are meetings worth attending.