Expert answer: Peter Thompson on how to choose a toastmaster

Expert answer: Peter Thompson on how to choose a toastmaster
Toastmaster Peter Thompson says you have to get to know and trust the man behind the red coat. Photo: Helen England

Absolutely Weddings’ experts answer your wedding planning questions. Here, past president of the National Association of Toastmasters Peter Thompson discusses how to choose the right toastmaster for you and what the role typically entails

Q: We’re thinking of getting a toastmaster, but we’re not really sure how to decide on the right person or what to expect. Can you advise?

A Toastmasters have very different styles of working and my advice would be to get to know the person behind the red coat. You have to like and trust your toastmaster, and be on the same wavelength, because they are playing a key role in what is a very important event in your lives.

There are two very distinct parts to the role. The first is the ceremonial side – where the toastmaster will mark key events, such as asking guests to welcome the bride or introducing speeches – but that is the tip of the iceberg as far as I’m concerned and most of my work goes on behind the scenes helping to keep things running smoothly. I always meet the couple in advance to find out what they want. During our chat, I can give guidance on traditional ways of doing things and alternative options. There are absolutely no ‘right’ ways at weddings; it’s the couple’s day, so they decide how it should run. After our chat, I draw up a checklist that outlines what we’ve agreed so they ensure I’ve understood their specific requirements. This also contains the information I need to contact other key parties – venue, caterer, car, and so forth – and share essential information. On the day, I’m typically there two hours before the event starts and will only say my goodbyes once the partying is well underway and my help is no longer required.

Toastmasters come from lots of different walks of life but our training and experience means we are used at a wide variety of public and private events. I was actually a police officer for 30 years in units such as Special Investigations, so I saw the darker side of life. Now I have the privilege to visit beautiful venues where I meet superb people who thank me for my help. In my former career, people didn’t say that very often!

Peter Thompson is a Fellow and Past President of the National Association of Toastmasters and officiates at weddings, civil partnerships and other special occasions.


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