Speech Timer for Public Speakers

This post was originally written for iPhone App Index.

In my day job (yes, I still have one and no, writing iPhone apps doesn’t make you filthy rich) we have an in-house Toastmasters club where I’m a member in. Toastmasters is a kind of special interest groups where the members practice public speaking, which is typically done in small to medium group meetings held regularly. Members will need to complete a set of public speaking projects to earn certain credentials given by the governing body, which is Toastmasters International. In Toastmasters meetings there are several pre-defined roles that needs to be filled by the members apart from the ones who does the speaking. One of such role is the Timer’s role – the person in charge will need to keep track speeches and ensure that they are not under-timed or over-timed. As to the Toastmasters guidelines, speeches have a pre-set minimum and maximum time limits. Thus the Timer typically utilizes two devices: a stopwatch and a signaling device which is a set of large cards colored in Green, Yellow, and Red. As the speech progresses, the timer will hold up the Green card signaling that the speech has met the required minimum time. Somewhere in the middle she will hold up a Yellow card which tells the speaker to finish up his speech. When the she holds up a Red card, the speaker will have to complete in about 30 seconds or risk disqualification.

When I play the Timer’s role, at times the speeches were too good such that I forgot to keep my eye on the stopwatch and signal the time. It happened several times just after I hold up the Green card, the speech was so interesting that I forgot to hold up the Yellow card and then I immediately picked up the Red card signaling imminent overtime. Fortunately those didn’t happen in speaking contests or otherwise people would get really mad at me.

Another mishaps that often happen is that we forgot to take the colored Green, Yellow, Red cards with us. Then it becomes really awkward – if we’re lucky enough to find blank paper sheets and fluorescent highlighters with the proper colors, we’re good to go. Otherwise we have to resort to awkward methods of signaling the time.

So these two problems became the primary drivers why I designed Speech Timer the way it is. It has large colored and positional lights that I can peek with my peripheral vision – so that I can maintain eye contact with the speaker. Whenever the light changes color it beeps (or vibrates on the iPhone). Also I can double my iPod touch to function as the colored cards without hassle — just hold it up straight and the entire display will change to the appropriate Green, Yellow, or Red color.

Of course as any other decent Toastmasters timer it holds a set of different timer settings for the different speech types that may be held in a session. It comes pre-configured with the common speech types and timings that we use in our club – and you can change it should the defaults doesn’t suit you or add some of your own. Furthermore it keeps a log of speech histories by day so that it frees the timer from noting down which speaker took which time. This is quite important since at the end of each session, there will be a Timer’s report saying which speaker took how much time and whether he is qualified for an award. Additionally there is an update (pending Apple’s review as this time of writing) to export the speech log via e-mail in either a table format or CSV text that can be imported to a spreadsheet program.

I guess that’s just about it. Thanks for reading this and look it up in iTunes store and let me know what you think of it. I do hope that you buy it though, but if you’re a reviewer I’ll be glad to offer a free iTunes promotion code or even an ad-hoc build in case promotion codes are not available in your region.

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