toastmaster n : the person who proposes toasts and introduces speakers at a banquet
- This article is about the role of host at a public speaking event. For other uses, see Toastmaster (disambiguation)
Toastmaster is a general term, prevalent in the United States in the middle 20th century, referring to a person in charge of the proceedings of a public speaking event. The toastmaster is typically charged with organization of the event, arranging the order of speakers, introducing one or more of the speakers, and keeping the event on schedule. Such meetings typically include civic events, service organization meetings, and banquets of various purpose. In many meetings, a toastmaster typically addresses the audience from behind a dais or from a podium. At stage entertainment events, especially ones broadcast on live television, the toastmaster often take the form of a master of ceremonies, introducing the entertainment acts. The term has fallen of out use to a large degree. The most famous person associated with this role was George Jessel, known in his lifetime as "Toastmaster General of the United States" (as a parody of Postmaster General of the United States).
In many service organizations and businesses, the role of toastmaster was a permanently assigned role, but often rotating among members. Toastmasters were largely expected to keep the event from becoming boring, and a cottage industry arose in the middle century to cater to the desire of businessmen and other leaders to overcome the fear of public speaking. Would-be toastmasters were typically counseled to use light humor, and to have anecdotes and epigrams handily memorized. Toastmasters International is an organization dedicated to helping people in public speaking and in fulfilling the role of toastmaster.
Such was the importance of a toastmaster remaining sober in order to conduct events, he may have had a special cup, called the toastmaster's glass which, although of the same size and shape as others at the event, in fact was of much lower capacity due to an almost solid interior. Several such glasses are now displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.