Part 1: Using Backgrounds for Timer Role in Toastmasters Zoom Online Meetings

There is a new trend to hold meetings online.  In particular, many Toastmasters clubs are moving to an online format as we wait for the pandemic to subside.  I have been working from home for about 8 years now and I have a few tips to improve your online meeting experience.  Today I will talk about how you can use the virtual background to enhance any presentation, but particularly if you are in the Timer role in your Toastmasters meeting.  This is specific to online meetings using Webex or Zoom.

  1.  Download the virtual background images from
  2. Start / join your online meeting.
  3. Add the images to your available virtual backgrounds.
  4. Before the speech starts, cover your camera lens.
  5. Change your background at the appropriate time for each speech:
    Use None before/after the speech
    Use White (Timing…) when timing is started,
    Use the standard Green, Yellow, Red at the appropriate time

The purpose of covering your camera is so that your image isn’t distracting the speaker in front of the background image.  You will note that there are 4  virtual background images.  Be sure to use the White background when the speaker starts talking so everyone knows you have started timing.  Optionally you can type “Started”, “Green”, “Yellow”, “Red” in the meeting chat so that the audience knows without looking at your video where the timing is.  This should NOT be done during a contest.

For maximum visibility, if you have additional ideas for improving this procedure, please post your comments here rather than in Facebook or youtube.

Toastmasters meetings online is a great way to practice for using web meetings in other settings.  Explore other ways you can use these techniques to enhance your viewers’ online experience.  For more Toastmasters tips, visit

(See also the second article I published on this which has more tips on the limitations of Virtual Backgrounds and how to use it on other devices:
Part 2: Using Zoom Virtual Backgrounds for Toastmasters Timer Role on iPads & Androids


Posted on March 28, 2020, in toastmasters, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I found your timer information to be very useful and it was used in the District 43, Division D, Areas D1-D5 International speeches and evaluations contests. I do have some lessons learned from that which I will like to share via email as well as some images. It was a different experience for sure.

  2. Towards the end of the video, David’s great idea of covering one’s camera to just show the timing background image is shared. I thought I had this working, but it looks like with my MacBook Pro and a green screen, I can’t do this. As soon as I cover the MBP’s camera, both my screen and other participants’ screens go dark.
    It looked like one had to select None for virtual bkgd, then cover camera, then select timer bkgd, but that’s not working, either. David doesn’t use a green screen, so I’m wondering if that’s my problem. My MBP can’t handle the absence of a green screen and use a virtual bkgd image.
    Any ideas? I really want this to work!

    • I got luck and found a solution. I believed the none/cover/select sequence was key, but rather, here’s how I did it:
      1) Select None for VB
      2) Cover camera with cardboard
      3) Select VB. It was dark, as reported above, until I used the “Manually pick the color of the background if the detected color is not accurate” feature, clicking in the video preview screen on the cardboarded-out gray/black, and my backgrounds began working correctly.
      I guess Zoom needed to be trained to process correctly the cardboard-covered camera situation..

  3. Sukoshi Fahey

    I would add that using the official Toastmaster timing backgrounds for red, yellow, green would look even better. Thanks for doing this.

    • Yes Sukoshi, I believe Toastmasters International has now published images with the TM logo. That can add a bit of a TM refinement and it is easy to do with the branding files available on the website. I will leave that to someone with more free time.

  1. Pingback: Part 2: Using Zoom Virtual Backgrounds for Toastmasters Timer Role on iPads & Androids | The Notes Guy in Seattle

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