How To Master the Art of Evaluation and Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Constant evaluation is the key to long-term, personal and professional growth. Why? Because constructive feedback is essential to improvement. Even if it can feel a little awkward, the benefits you receive from gathering meaningful and tangible feedback far outweigh any short-term discomfort. 

Toastmasters facilitates a constructive feedback loop as an essential part of its educational program. If you truly want to improve your speaking and leadership skills, you must learn how to give and receive helpful evaluations. Here are some valuable tips on how to give and receive effective evaluation from seasoned evaluators at San Diego Toastmasters 7:

TIPS FOR THE EVALUATOR

The main purpose of the Evaluator is to provide constructive and encouraging feedback that helps the speaker improve his/her speaking skills and gain confidence.

Toastmasters International promotes the “sandwich technique” as its model for evaluations. Here’s how it works: 

  • State the positives of the speech
  • Suggest an area or two for improvement
  • Finish with another positive comment

Simple, encouraging, yet effective. This feedback style is also recommended for written audience feedback. If you find yourself acting as an Evaluator, remember to only evaluate areas the speaker has the power to change. Just because you personally don’t like a speech, doesn’t mean your opinion is warranted. Unless your criticism is productive, keep it to yourself. 

Shadi Abudayyeh, seasoned member at San Diego Toastmasters 7, shared why Evaluator is his favorite role.

Competent Communicator Shadi Abudayyeh, presenting an evaluation at a San Diego Toastmasters 7 meeting on March 16, 2019, at Normal Heights Community Center in San Diego, CA.

“By giving constant evaluations, I have become better at giving the most direct and straightforward advice. Being an Evaluator has helped me stay constantly focused during speeches, provide individualized feedback, and helped me become a better communicator,” Abudayyeh said. 

It helps to remember the speaker you are evaluating likely spent hours (or even weeks!) preparing for a project. They deserve a meaningful and thoughtful evaluation. Here are some tips to help Evaluators provide the most value to the speaker:

Do your research. Chat with the speaker beforehand, find out which Pathways project he/she is presenting and look up the specific project objectives. Be sure to ask if there are any additional areas beyond the project evaluation form they want you to focus on. 

Listen before you evaluate. DTM Chris Hammel, explains why he rarely takes notes during evaluations. 

Distinguished Toast Master Chris Hammel presenting a speech at an improv show in February 2019, at unknow location in San Diego, CA.

“Evaluation is effective if you hear the entire speech. Otherwise, you’re evaluating a speech the speaker didn’t give because you missed key parts while you were taking notes,” Hammel said.

Now, Hammel only takes notes on the key points the speaker lists in his/her introduction so he can monitor their chronology. That being said, evaluation is an art, not a science. Toastmasters International offers comprehensive resources to help guide speakers through the process, but don’t be afraid to try different strategies to find what works best for you.

Don’t tell someone what to do. When presenting constructive feedback, always preface your suggestion by saying, “In my opinion” or “I feel.” These statements will help the speaker feel less defensive because you’re allowing them to take your feedback with a grain of salt. 

Customize your communication style. With experience, Abudayyeh has learned to tailor his evaluation style to each individual speaker to provide them with the most effective feedback for their development. In most clubs, it’s common for advanced speakers to prefer a direct approach while newer members generally respond better to an encouraging tone. However, if you’re unsure, don’t assume. A simple question posed to the speaker about his/her preferred evaluation style will help set you and the speaker up for success.  

Speak with intention. Speakers can easily tell who took the time and effort to offer genuine and intentional feedback. They can also quickly tell who lacked attention and resorted to lazy observations. Remember, when Evaluators only share positive takeaways, they are usually doing more harm than good when it comes to the speaker’s long-term growth. 

TIPS FOR THE EVALUATEE

Once a speaker finishes presenting, he/she has a moment to step back and relax. This is the waiting period when the audience members prepare written feedback and the evaluator presents a 2-3 minute evaluation. It can be an intimidating experience at first, but the club makes a concerted effort to ensure the speaker feels supported and encouraged. At San Diego Toastmasters 7, we take pride in creating a positive experience for all members and guests that walk through our doors.

Many new members, though nervous at the start, walk away with a strong feeling of encouragement and support after presenting their first personal speeches. Members at San Diego Toastmasters 7 have even been known to follow up via email after connecting with a story and go out of their way to acknowledge newcomers. San Diego Toastmasters 7 takes pride in itself as a place where members not only talk the talk, but walk the walk when it comes to valuing the experiences of others. 

Speakers that practice humility and open themselves up to the evaluation process reap the rewards of the development and support the club offers. 

Here are some tips to help speakers successfully navigate evaluations and utilize feedback for improvement:

Take it with a grain of salt. While it’s important to review all feedback, don’t feel obligated to absorb everything. Some nights you may walk away with 50+ slips of audience feedback, which can be overwhelming. It’s important to implement your own filtering process to identify the comments that are most valuable to you.

Pay attention to trends in audience feedback and suggestions from your mentor and other trusted speakers. If you receive the same piece of feedback on numerous occasions, this may be something worthy of greater exploration. 

That said, do your best to avoid defensiveness if you disagree with your Evaluator’s feedback. Instead, ask for further clarification after the meeting. Hammel explained the evaluation process has helped him receive feedback in his personal life. Before Toastmasters, he would immediately react and become defensive when presented with constructive feedback. Now, he takes the time to assess the value of each point before responding. 

“Evaluations have made me more approachable because people aren’t afraid of correcting me,” Hammel said. 

Practice self-reflection. Most importantly, if you find yourself in the role of the speaker, be sure to take time to reflect on your speech. Some helpful questions to ask include: 

How did I feel on stage?

Did I cover all the main points? 

What parts of my speech went well? 

What areas could have gone better? 

This reflection process will help you identify the most valuable pieces of feedback that resonate with your own perspective. The more self-aware you become, the more effective you will be in your communication going forward. 

Learn from others. Don’t wait until your next speech to make improvements. You can continue to learn by watching others! Gather inspiration from speeches you enjoy and take note of the feedback they receive when creating your next speech. Long-time member and DTM Eric Linder shared his take on evaluations. 

Distinguished Toast Master Eric Linder, presenting an evaluation at a San Diego Toastmasters 7 meeting on June 13, 2019, at Normal Heights Community Center in San Diego, CA.

“I learn how to improve my presentation skills at every meeting, whether or not I have a speaking role at one. During the evaluation section of the meeting, the Evaluators provide insightful suggestions to everyone on how to fine-tune and improve presentations,” Linder said.

As effective communicators and leaders, we need constructive feedback in order to enhance personal and professional growth. Without it, you run the risk of becoming complacent and stagnant. After all, a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. Embrace your Toastmasters journey and Pathways education with an open mind and willingness to improve, and you’ll reap all the benefits it has to give you.

For further information on evaluation, Toastmasters International offers various resources including a more in-depth version of “The Art of Effective Evaluation”. Or you can reach out to the VP of Education at ckoehler@toastmasters7.org for questions.

Club VP Education (Officer Blog Series)

*Our current VPE is taking on another term! Thanks Corinna. Here she shares with us her experience as the VP of Education. As you can see, this role has many responsibilities, so if you’re interested in becoming a part of her committee to give her a hand – it would be appreciated!

My name is Corinna Koehler and I am the Vice President of Education (VPE) of our amazing club, San Diego Toastmasters 7. I joined Toastmasters in November 2017 and I am currently starting my second term as VPE. From day one, I was pleasantly surprised by the support and the community that our club provides. 
I want to say, it is about now that you might wonder what does this fancy title VPE actually entail…? Well, allow me to make a little more sense out of it. 
The Vice President of Education is responsible for the whole educational progress of the club. I know, I know, that is still pretty vague. I’m working on it… 
In more detail, I am responsible for scheduling every upcoming meeting throughout the year, that means whenever a name is on the schedule and there are no blank meetings coming up, I already fulfilled part of my job 😊 I also take care of the upcoming agenda and key in the role of toastmaster ahead of time to make sure everything works smoothly. 
I also keep track of the educational progress of the members which includes both communication and leadership progress. That means every time a member takes on a speaking role, I keep track of their updates and make sure they progress along their project goals. Communication goals are speaking opportunities, where members present a speech. Leadership goals are roles like functionaries, Toastmaster of the evening, General Evaluator and so on. All of these roles help the members to develop leadership skills since they are responsible for the preparation and execution of a certain part of the meeting. 
The next thing I do is when members complete educational goals, I update the trackers and submit them to Toastmasters International in order to receive official credit for their achievements. 
Another part of my role is to schedule special events such as speech contests or open houses. For events such as speech contests I am responsible to find the chairing committee that helps put the contest together. 
I know, it sounds a lot but once you get a hold of it, it is not as bad as it sounds 😉 
From my personal experience I can say it has been very rewarding to serve such a great club since I have learned a lot about interacting with people, steering them into the right direction as well as delegating. The biggest thing that I have learned during this time is that I can always count on my fellow members in times I feel overwhelmed, busy, out of town or simply needed some support. 
Being part of the executive committee has allowed me to gain a deeper insight on how a club works, how everything interacts and how much work and dedication it takes to make a club successful. At the end of the day, we always have each other’s back so there might be times when you step up and take on more responsibilities than your role actually entails but as soon as you walk into a meeting and look at all the smiling faces you know that it was well worth it. 

About Corinna Koehler:

Corinna joined San Diego Toastmasters 7 in November 2017 because she felt the need to get rid of all her “so’s”,“uhm’s”, “ah’s” and all the other weird noises she makes when she is speaking. Plus, she is trying hard to properly speak her second language, English. All of that and the amazing members of San Diego Toastmasters 7, were the reasons she joined.  

She is currently enrolled in an MBA program with a specialization in organizational leadership and international business, basically a perfect fit for toastmasters, wouldn’t you agree?!

In her free time, Corinna loves to spend as much time as possible with her friends but usually she is off traveling and exploring the world to see the many opportunities out there.

For Corinna, San Diego Toastmasters 7 is more than just a club. It is a place to laugh, learn, make new friends, experience the unexpected, develop skills you didn’t know you have and so much more. She highly recommends for you to visit San Diego Toastmasters 7 and experience what this amazing club can do for you!

Corinna has been awarded Competent Communicator, served as the Club Secretary and continuing on as the VP Education for a second term.

Club VP Public Relations Role (Officer Blog Series)

*This is a weekly blog series with our Club Officers writing about their personal experience in the role they serve. Club Officer election is coming up! If you’re interested in becoming a part of the Executive Committee, contact the Club President!

I decided to take the role as VP Public Relations a year ago to learn, grow and become more comfortable with promoting awareness about the Toastmasters 7 experience.  Many of our members, including me, look forward to Thursday nights to cap off the week as many members show up with great enthusiasm and high energy.  Even when you feel low, attending a Toastmasters meeting is a sure way to fire you up!  Because of Toastmasters’ positive impact on me, one way I could give back to the club was to accept the role of VPPR.  As I took on this role, my primary goal was to shine a light on the tremendous benefits Toastmasters bring to one’s personal and professional development.  
Member in the Spotlight with Sureal Sparx
You’re probably wondering what does a VPPR do?  As defined by Toastmasters International, a VPPR’s main responsibility is to –
“Generate positive awareness of the Toastmasters brand for the purpose of attracting and retaining members. It requires keeping the public (external audience) and members (internal audience) informed about club or district activities through effective communication channels and media relations. Good public relations will build membership and gain public recognition.”
Generating positive awareness can be accomplished in multitude ways which requires knowledge of various platforms and tools available.  Here’s a quick overview of what we have incorporated in our club:
Let’s start with one of the most popular in today’s society – SOCIAL MEDIA!   Social media is a direct and easy tool to use to connect with the masses.  As VPPR, I found Facebook as the most effective social media platform for SDTM7.  The ‘secret’ is consistency!  I’ve taken advantage of the various tools within the FB platform. From posts with photos and videos to Facebook lives, it has reached a wide range of audience knowing more about what we do as a club.
Keep in mind Facebook is not the only platform out there! This is why we try to keep our other social media channels active like LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.  Of course, it could get overwhelming for a VPPR to do all of the updates. It’s best to focus on one or two platforms that is the most effective. Or consider forming a committee to take care of the other channels.
EMAIL continues to be the main form of communication when keeping our members aware of the club’s activities.  Mailchimp is also another excellent tool to get in touch with guests who visited our club about our upcoming activities.
Having a WEBSITE that represents the club is also important.  This was one of my major tasks as VPPR – to have a website up and running with detailed information about our club along with beautiful photographs (many taken by our resident photographer Antonio Garcia) to attract members.  As part of the website is a BLOG (which you’re currently reading this piece of writing!) with posts from a few of our members who volunteered to share their experiences at Toastmasters through writing.
It’s been a pleasure to serve as the VPPR for the past year! I know the next elected officer will do great and continue to build awareness for how AWESOME our club truly is!  
If you are interested in becoming the next VPPR or take a part in a committee as you can tell this role can use the help of others, please let me know!

About Elaine Dusetzina: Elaine first stepped into a Toastmasters meeting at a San Diego Toastmaster 7’s Open House back in September 2017.  Immediately, she was hooked after experiencing so much positive energy from everyone. Normally, she’s not the type of person to step outside of her box.  However, she realized she needed to get out of her safe haven after an 11-yr stint with the Navy and becoming a stay-at-home mom for the past 8 years. Being a part of Toastmasters is exactly what she needed to hone her speaking and leadership skills.  Elaine served as VPPR for two terms in 2018/2019.
Elaine recently earned a second master’s degree this time with something she’s passionate about – Exercise Science and Health Promotion with a Wellness Coaching concentration as she aspires to start her own wellness coaching practice and empower others towards a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
Her other passion is distance running and would love to run all of the World Marathon Majors (So far she’s ran Boston, NYC and Chicago with only 3 more to go! – Tokyo, London, and Berlin).  When she’s not running, you can find her outdoors hanging out with her 2 daughters, husband and dog.

A Toastmaster’s Visit

Recently, we had the honor to host a guest from Italy – Antonio Blissett, the Immediate Past President of the Erzelli Toasters in Genoa and the current Area A5 Director.  His visit was a good reminder of how Toastmasters extend beyond our home club and a great way to make connections in new places!  Furthermore, by visiting other clubs, we can learn something new that we can take with us to make our club even better.  With clubs in over 140 countries, it’s almost a guarantee you will find one in every major city.

3/14 Meeting
Group photo of our members and guests

Due to my curiosity, I was interested in learning more about Antonio’s experience with visiting our club.  Here’s what I found out!

TM7:  How did you find our club?
I simply looked you up on the Toastmasters International website, and I didn’t realize at first what the “7” in your name stood for.
I was just lucky to find one of the most history-rich Clubs on the planet !
TM7:  What motivated you to visit?
Wherever I go, I try to see if a Toastmasters Club in the area has a meeting schedule compatible with mine. I did it once out of curiosity, and I liked the experience so much that it has become a habit.
It’s just so exciting to meet other Clubs: you can always learn new tricks and bring them home for the benefit of your fellow Toasties 🙂
TM7:  What was your best experience during your visit?
I was delighted by the team spirit you have shown while setting up the meeting and by the warm welcome you gave to me and to the other guests.
Also, Alberto’s workshop was top-notch.  Engaging, effective, entertaining.

Alberto Alvarado, soon to be Distinguished Toastmaster, presented The Art of Evaluation workshop.  He shared his knowledge and expertise on how to effectively give feedback when evaluating a speech.

TM7:  While it was a different format than our regular meeting, did you notice similarities and differences between your club and ours?
I liked a lot of the formal ceremonies you performed during the meeting – the Pledge to the flag, the induction of a new member with a secret vote. Small but important rites which add solemnity, and increase the feeling of belonging. Our Club is just 3 years old, and we should definitely learn from you.
TM7:  Additional feedback on the way we conducted our meeting?
Really enjoyable atmosphere! Professional, but with the right amount of humor !  

Thank you Antonio!  We look forward to your visit again next year.  And if we ever find ourselves in Genoa, we’ll make sure to connect with The Erzelli Toasters!!

erzelli toasters Antonio Blissett
Post-meeting drinks and eats at our favorite restaurant, DiMille’s. Antonio approves! (With our Treasurer, Christoph Kubitza)

Written by Elaine Dusetzina, VP Public Relations

The purpose of Table Topics

When you attend a couple of  Toastmasters 7 meetings, you will recognize how the meeting is divided into three main sections – Table Topics, Prepared Speeches, and Evaluations.  A week ago, Salam Alchi, a seasoned Toastmaster who recently joined our club was the Table Topics Master (TT Master) and his explanation for the purpose of Table Topics was on point:

sdtm7

“The purpose of Table Topics is to help us sharpen our skills in impromptu speaking. Our goal is not just to simply speak for one minute and provide an answer to the question. Rather, it is to perform a miniature well-organized 1 to 2 minute speech addressing the question concisely and articulately.
The response should be given with purpose, whether to teach, inspire, confound, or amuse the audience. Tying the response to the theme is an added bonus.
The reason we are here is to hold space for each other to improve. The most crucial part of Table Topics is to do your best and have fun. Our inner critic is often the harshest one.
As the TT master, I believe it’s important to set up the participants for success by asking thought provoking and understandable questions. This provides participants a better opportunity to develop confidence and improve.”

Salam’s approach, which is a good example on how to conduct a Table Topics session, was to ask the question first then call on a member.  This allows everyone to digest the question and start thinking about on how to answer it appropriately.  Typically, the TT Master would call on a few members, then give an opportunity for guests to participate.

Here are some of the thought-provoking questions crafted by Salam surrounding the theme and Word of the Week: Satisfaction.
  • What does it mean to be satisfied?
  • What should be the goal of humanity?
  • Is suffering a necessary part of pleasure or satisfaction? Why?
  • How would you define genius?

If you’d like to take a stab at these questions and share it with us, write in the comment section below!  And if this is something that you’re interested in participating, you’re welcome to attend our meetings as a guest.  Check out our Meeting Info page for location and time.

 

About Salam Alchi:
Salam was born in Baghdad in 1988 and immigrated to the US in 1993. His passion in life is to study and understand the nature of our existence, both individually and collectively. When ready, he will apply what he has learned for the betterment of his family, peers, and environment. “
As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” – Hermes Trismegistus

A Cathartic Speech – by Tomo Osako

When you lay your emotions out in the open, it becomes a cathartic experience.  You feel a huge burden off your shoulders.  It’s still a part of you but it’s easier to breathe because you shared it with others.  The beauty of showing your vulnerability in a Toastmasters’s speech is that everyone is listening to you and is affected by your experience.
Tomo Osako presented a powerful speech for Project 4 – A Dramatic Talk, of the Advanced Communicator Series.  Titled “What is your Legacy?”, Tomo revealed to us the story of her father in his deathbed, the events leading up to it and what he left as his legacy.
I was touched at her courage to take us to a vulnerable part of her life.  This made me think about a book I’m currently reading, Rising Strong by Brene Brown when she talked about courage.

“Courage is contagious.  Rising strong changes not just you, but also the people around you.”

Not many people are bold enough to be in a vulnerable state, particularly when you’re standing in front of a crowd, some of which are strangers. Yet Tomo stood firm – even in the midst of tears, she kept her composure.  I couldn’t help but cry either.  In fact, I observed many others in the audience who cried with me.  All of us were touched by her story in one way or another.  And possibly given us the chance to ease tender emotions we’ve kept far too long inside.
In the past year, I’ve witnessed many courageous acts from fellow members who allowed us to be a part of the darkest days of their lives.  It allowed me reflect on my experiences and even made me consider to take a courageous leap in revealing my vulnerable side.
The end of every Toastmaster meeting is dedicated to recognizing the Best Table Topics Speaker, Best Evaluator and the Best Speaker saved for last.  It wasn’t a surprise that Tomo Osako received Best Speaker.  She truly deserved this recognition.

Did you miss Tomo’s speech?  If you’d like to view it, please visit our YouTube page by clicking on the link => Tomo Osako ACS Project 4 Speech

Our meetings are held every Thursday night from 6:30 – 8pm.  Meeting start on time therefore please arrive at least 15min early to allow for parking and meet our members.

Written by Elaine Dusetzina, VP Public Relations

TM7

What you missed during our 11/1/18 Meeting!

Our esteemed Christoph Kubitza concerted the meeting effortlessly with the theme of ‘Superstition’.
Running with this theme is Table Topics Mistress, Linda Hau who presented the audience with engaging questions.  She is edging closer to her Competent Leader award!

toastmasters7

Those who dared to answer were Sureal Sparx, Elaine Dusetzina, Gerald Eldred and Guests Jamie, Brennan, and Brandy.
Gerald distinguished himself with the best reply in the audience’s eyes.

Best Table Topics -Gerald Eldred

Gerald also passed his 1st Time General Evaluator baptism by fire with flying colors and took home a great evaluation team made up of Omar Ocampo, Elaine Dusetzina, Lou Weimann with functionaries, Ron Morrow, Shadi Abudayyeh, Antonio Garcia, and Joyce Persichilli.  Our Sargent-at-Arms and humorous, Lou Weimann distinguished himself as the best evaluator.

tm7Our Functionaries – Shadi, Ron, Antonio, Joyce

First time General Evaluator – Gerald Eldred

Best Evaluator – Lou Weimann

Last but not least, even when serious in filling in the media on a crisis at sea, Jon Berman could not stop making Matt Mounier laugh.  Dave Zarella persuaded us why he is the best realtor in San Diego and why we should pick him to sell our home in his Project 9 Persuade with Power speech.
But it is the deep spiritual Ice breaker part II by Salam Alchi that swayed the audience to distinguish Salam Alchi as the best speaker of the night.

Best Speaker – Salam Alchi

Best of all, we welcomed two new members – Teresa Rocha and Jamie Deproso!
Don’t miss our next meeting – every Thursday night from 6:30pm to 8pm at Normal Heights Community Center.  Any questions about the meeting, please contact us at vppr@toastmasters7.org.

This brief summary is written by Christoph Kubitza, DTM/Treasurer.