• Karen Brook

A Drawer Full of Ribbons.

Updated: May 10

It was 7 years ago, when someone in our club really, got my attention. I hadn’t been a member of Toastmasters for very long, however I knew a good thing when I saw or heard it. During one of our club meetings, a member boldly walked up to the lectern, as the audience applauded him to the stage. He delivered a confident and concise speech evaluation.

I was captivated by the eloquent delivery of the evaluation. He was assured with his positive introduction; his suggestions on how to improve the speech, followed by a strong, summative conclusion. His evaluation flowed seamlessly without any ‘umms’, ‘ahs’ or filler words. He won the Best Evaluator award ribbon. Of course, I was one of many, that night, that voted for him.

I had joined Toastmasters to improve my presentation skills at work. But skillful speech evaluations was something new to me. As I listened intently to this evaluator, I became aware that I was excited to learn the art of skillfully evaluating speeches. I was in total awe of his evaluation delivery. I wanted to be as good as him!

This was the man to follow. I aspired to be like him; an effective, confident evaluator, delivering seamless, eloquent evaluations.

On hindsight, I was lucky to hear his evaluations a couple more times. Each time, I was fascinated by his evaluations. It was no surprise to me, he was awarded the Best Evaluator award ribbon each time. He must have had a drawer at home full of them! I wanted a drawer full of them too! Then he disappeared from the club!

I was absolutely gutted that he was no longer at our club meetings due to his business commitments. Why does business have to get in the way of a good thing!

My development in delivering evaluations took a backseat. I concentrated on working through speech projects and meeting roles, progressing to advanced speeches before the current Pathways educational system came into being.

It was after I did the role of table topics leader a few times, I got feedback from several members telling me that they liked the way I gave feedback to members during the table topics session. That gave me the confidence to try the role of speech evaluator. I was extremely nervous, as are you, at the thought of it!

How did I decide which speakers to evaluate? I’ll let you into a little secret: I didn’t choose the speaker. I chose the speech project. First it was the Icebreaker speeches (NB. experienced speakers evaluate Icebreaker speeches)as the feedback to a new member is overwhelming positive, in order to motivate the speaker to want to present another speech. I then moved onto evaluating speech projects I had completed because, I knew what was required of those and that gave me the confidence to evaluate different speech projects.

Each of my evaluations is a stepping stone to getting better at the role. I prepare myself by researching the art of evaluations every time, in order to give me confidence to do the role. Research may involve finding articles via, Google, YouTube, online Toastmasters Conferences and of course, listening and observing our fellow club speakers.

I never thought that delivering evaluations would lead me to deliver a teaching session regarding effective evaluations at a Toastmasters Speech-craft session at Bradford University, however I did it in February this year. It was an unexpected opportunity that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I will never forget the excitement I felt when hearing those speech evaluations all those years ago. I still aspire to have a drawer full of best evaluator award ribbons. And what about you? What do you aspire to?

Recommended resources: YouTube ‘D71 Toastmasters Sanat Shelat’ ‘Effective Evaluations’ (3 videos)

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