I remember that in my initial days at Toastmasters I grabbed the Better Table Topics Speaker award at my first attempt, been awarded the Better Featured Speaker on my very first speech. But evaluations, boy, that was a different ball game altogether!
I feared evaluations so much that I despised it. I have taken part in the International Speech Contest, won Table Topics, been a smooth TMOE, loved my role as any role taker. But evaluations made my palms sweaty and my mind all jumbled up. I’d forget what word I planned to say next. I feared evaluations because I always thought I’d come off too direct on the speaker and that they would hate me for it. Evaluation was never my forte.
Contest season at KUSOM Toastmasters is always fun. Since the year of the Charter, we’ve always held positions in the Area, Division and the District. Everyone gets excited and we have so many contestants that finding a contest chair and roletakers from the club becomes quite a task. This year, I took part in the Evaluation Contest because surprisingly there were few participants. I was so disheartened initially so I decided to chip in, and rest is history.
First, it took me countless hours of watching videos on YouTube about effective evaluation. Then, I started evaluating speeches every week. I was getting irritated during the process since no matter how much and how differently I did it, it never seemed to work. Then I began to wonder – what would work for me if this formal structure of evaluation isn’t? In one of the meetings, I took part in Table Topics. As usual I enjoyed the process and realized impromptu speeches work for me. With this new found realization, I started evaluating like I did my Table Topics, by reflecting on what was said by the Speaker just two minutes ago, and with no other preparation, format, whatsoever. I tried sticking to how I’d do my table topics, by being as funny, polite, real and crisp as possible. After all, both are just different ways to express your opinions. And it worked!
Countless evaluations later, what I have come to realize is, people say evaluation is about the speaker and not the evaluator, but I don’t think so. We can’t pour from an empty vessel. We can’t give from what we don’t have. Politeness, knowledge, humor, should all come from within. We reflect on our qualities as speakers when we evaluate someone. I think it is absolutely necessary for us to find what style we prefer. Mine happens to be to go with the flow, but yours can be a little better and structured like storytelling, or research, or QnA. After discovering the way I liked presenting my opinion, one step at a time, one week at a time, one level at a time, practice and patience was all it took. I now absolutely enjoy evaluating.
Don’t blame me if we catch up over coffee and I go home and send you three areas of improvement.
VPE KU-SOM Toastmasters Club,
Program Quality Director Area N3,
Division N, District 41.