Toastmasters

Constant Feedback

In my experience, most working adults get performance reviews once a year. I’ve only worked for one employer that did performance reviews more frequently. At that corporation, employees met with supervision once a month to review performance statistics and evaluate progress towards goals. I have also been very fortunate in that all the performance reviews I’ve experienced have been constructive.

As an individual, I am very self-critical. I judge myself so harshly that a former employer once noted it on my performance review. I was failing to have confidence in the great work I was doing. I was trying so hard to pick apart my work, find the flaws in it, and perfect the flaws I found. I have been on a long journey to accept constructive criticism.

When you present at Toastmasters, you are being evaluated by other club members.

At each meeting, members take on roles that compose an evaluation team. During the meeting, this team is listening to you and observing you. At the end of the meeting, these team members provide brief reports about your performance and they do so in front of the entire club. The first meeting I went to, I shocked that feedback was given so openly. In my past experience, feedback has been given at work, in an office, with a manager or two passing out paperwork for signing.

The first time I spoke at a club meeting, I was more scared of what the evaluation team would say about me than I was at actually speaking.  My first speech project was called an “Ice Breaker.” I was tasked with preparing a speech that introduced myself to the group of club members. I was supposed to talk for 4-6 minutes. I was allowed to use notes. I was allowed to plant myself behind the lectern if I wanted. After I spoke, there were a few other club activities that I anxiously sat through while I became more and more anxious of what would come next- all the evaluations.

I am a Toastmaster working in the Pathways learning system. Each of my speeches has an evaluation sheet. There are set criteria on the sheet and I know what those criteria are as soon as I start work on the speech project. I pass this sheet to my assigned evaluator when I present my speech. While I talk, they listen. At the perscribed time in the meeting, the Evaluator comes to the front of the room and tells me something I did well, something I can work on, and the Evaluator issues me a challenge to work on in future speeches. They only have 2-3 minutes to give me feedback. No one else interjects or adds their own two cents.

The Time Keeper stood in place at their seat and announced how well all of the speakers had done with regard to their allocated minutes. The times were read outloud for all to hear. A speaker had gone overtime by 20 seconds on their speech. It was okay. No one yelled at them. No one berated them. The Time Keeper simply noted the time. Everything was alright.

One of the other members of the evaluation team, the Ah Counter, also stands from their seat and delivers a report to all of the speakers at the meeting. They state alound how many guttural noises and filler words that were used as you spoke. Again, these things are noted. You arent judged on them.

The last individual who reports feedback to you is the Grammarian. This individual points out when you used language exceptionally well. They also indicate when words were used incorrectly or awkwardly. This individual also notes how many members used the Word of the Day at the meeting and congratualtes these individuals.

I attend four Toastmasters meetings a month. I hear four sets of evaluations a month. The process of getting feedback has become quite normal for me. Hearing compliments of my work has also helped me to celebrate the things I am doing well when I craft a speech. Because I have heard similar feedback from multiple evaluators, I still have some specific areas in which I can work on improvement. I feel like my evaluators have even offered me tools with which I am able to improve. I have also benefited from hearing evaluations given to others!

Giving a speech and being evaluated by four individuals is striking the first couple of time you experience it. However, the feedback is very valuable. When I speak at a meeting now, I am excited to hear my feedback. I want to know if I stayed on time. I want to know if I used less filler language. I also want to know if I used any words incorrectly as I spoke. Most importantly, I want to know what I can continue to work on for future speeches.

If you come to a Toastmasters meeting, I think you might be shocked at how much feedback is given. As a speaker, at a single meeting, you get more time and care from a group of people who want you to succeed than you get in most work places over the course of a year.

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