The greatest benefit that Toastmasters provides for communication development is feedback. Hearing about your speech strengths and areas for improvement serve to enhance vital speech skill building.
Our primary means for receiving positive ‘critique’ is through the speech evaluations. In three minutes, a club member will share their impressions and generate ideas for how to make the speech better.
Is three minutes enough? Do speakers hear suggestions that can take their abilities to the next level? This challenge is difficult to satisfy even by experienced club evaluators, let alone newer members to Toastmasters.
At Speaking From Experience Advanced Toastmasters (SFEAT), the process of delivering the speech evaluation is altered for greater evaluation effect. From the outset in 2012, charter SFEAT members agreed to a round table evaluation whereby everyone present has the opportunity to volunteer their impressions – on the speech and the evaluation. Individuals are timed for a minute or more depending on time constraints. These contributions follow the typical three minute evaluation by one member, as we’re all familiar in doing.
The experience is revelatory. Just like any speech evaluation contest, a round table evaluation provides multiple perspectives. Most often, members will differ in their opinions, even contradicting each other. Members are encouraged to supply their reasons for their comments, and to suggest an alternative approach. Hearing diverse viewpoints raises the educational value for both the speaker and all meeting participants.
How well does the adopted SFEAT approach work? Despite the fact that there is no clear method for evaluating the round table evaluations, the consensus by the club members is a resounding YES!
The unique aspect of hearing different positions leaves you with more. For example, you might leave the meeting with a new insight never considered before. This idea might counter a deeply held position you currently hold, or unearth a feeling you have held buried or avoided. Getting beyond a surface-level evaluation increases the likelihood that you will reflect on new meanings, find opportunities to apply new ideas and improve how you prepare and deliver your next speech.
In a sense, the round table evaluation becomes an evaluation of your own personal mind map. Of course, every Toastmaster meeting offers this comprehension. But the round table experience
extends this experience further, in multiple dimensions. Weighing the responses made by experienced and newbie Toastmasters and comparing these with your personally held beliefs and feelings is critical for an enhanced experience.
On March 4th, SFEAT invited five District 86 Division International Speech contestants to deliver their contest speeches. In this special marathon meeting, we heard five unique speeches. Each one reflected a different communication skill – expression of feelings, memories, logic and personal experiences. Following this story potpourri each lightening round of round table evaluations highlighted our individual differences.
Those who favoured the logical approach, reasoned the strengths of well-organized speeches, providing solid examples of content development and resolved conclusions. On the other hand, the emotional types gushed over personal stories filled with heart felt moments and uplifting endings. Both approaches succeeded to impress the evaluators. More importantly, one could recognize how each speech, in its own way, was able to inspire the listener to think or act differently.
Since the recent COVID-19 requirement to cancel in-person meetings, SFEAT implemented online WebEx meetings. We were fortunate to experience two more Division speech finalists. SFEAT was able to replicate the in-person evaluation experience through the round ‘screen’ evaluations. A number of new aspects of communication revealed themselves in the virtual format (i.e., body gestures need to slow down and required increased control and purpose).
You too can easily experience the magical benefits of a round table (screen) evaluation meeting. SFEAT invites any Toastmaster to join our virtual meetings by internet. You will leave with your mind expanded. But before you do, prepare to engage and share your perspective to our club’s discussion of communication merits. We’ll all be winners from the expanded evaluation experience.
Send your request to join the next SFEAT WebEx meeting to: firstname.lastname@example.org