Saturday, August 30, 2008

Brutally Honest and Caring Evaluations

As the Evaluation Contests progress from the club level to the area level all around Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, I am reminded of the real reason for giving evaluations... to learn new ideas that you can use in future speeches and improve you speaking skills!

Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, gave me an interesting idea in his recent newsletter that could apply to the upcoming evaluation contests and anyone who wants to give (and get) excellent evaluations that help you improve.

Brutal, Honest . . . Caring?
by Darren LaCroix

How do you know if people truly care about you? Seriously? Is it when they're nice to you? How do you feel when someone tells says, "You've got something in your teeth." Do you want to know?

... At our last coaching camp, one of the attendees told me they'd heard I was "mean" when giving feedback. Really? At first I got defensive. Then it dawned on me that I'm no different. Receiving feedback is different from each individual. Different people will take the same exact feedback in a different
way. What is the "purpose" of the feedback? To show that you're better? Or to help grow?

... Some presenters are surrounded by people who can't give them a higher level of feedback. They're the "king" of their club, and they may be content with that. This is probably pretty good for their self-esteem, but it's not good for their growth. What kind of people are you surrounded by? Are they helping you grow?

.... How do you look at feedback from people who have more expertise than you?

... No mentor ever "niced" me to the next level.
Darren brings up a good point... growth comes from feedback... but the one part he does not touch on is that it is equally important to present the feedback in a manner that will be accepted.
Here are some ideas you might want to consider the next time you give an evaluation ...

- A lot of people use the "Sandwich Technique" (a constructive criticism with a compliment on either side) but I've often seen evaluators who are overly harsh with their "constructive criticism" and insincere with the compliments. This effectively defeats the whole idea of the Sandwich Technique.

- The "Simple Suggestion Technique" is another idea where you simply phrase your "constructive criticisms" as suggestions or ideas that you (the evaluator) might have tried. This takes the emphasis off of doing something WRONG (which is harsh and raises the speaker's defenses) and puts the emphasis on trying something DIFFERENT.

- Another way is the "Clean Slate Approach" where you start with "Here are some suggestions for your next speech... " This helps take the focus off of what went wrong in this speech and puts it on the next speech (which is a clean slate). The speaker will be less defensive about his or her next speech and may actually use your suggestions (which is really the mark of an effective evaluation).

- The "Challenge Approach" works with some speakers, but not with all. It can be started "With everything you did right, the one thing that would take your speaking to the next level is ..." This statement should grab the speaker's attention and may even motivate them to see if they can really "take their speech to the next level" !

- The "Perception Approach" starts out with "My perception of your speech is that ...." This is especially good when you want to address the speaker's theme or overall goal for the speech. If the speaker did not clearly get his or her key points, this will be an important skill for them to develop and will show incredible improvements in future speechs (if they are given a good evaluation and they take it to heart).

These "lead-in's" can help you present the feedback ... without turning off the speaker. There are also variations on these as part of the Toastmasters Module, "Evaluate to Motivate" which is a great [pre-written] speech that anyone can edit (to "make it your own") and give to your club.

What about the Speaker?
Of course, as Darren points out, it is still the speaker's responsibility to be open to the suggestions (that's all they really are) and incorporate what makes sense.

Evaluations can be emotionally charged and it is important to do them well so that the speaker improves and the audience can learn from the evaluation as well.

Contests too !
How was your club's Evaluation contest? Be sure to attend your Area and Division contests to see some excellent evaluations and, of course, you will want to attend the District 53 Fall Conference on October 10th & 11th to see the winners compete for the top prize for evaluations !

Advanced Evaluations:
If you already have your CC and want an even higher level of evaluation for your speeches, you might want to consider joining one of the Advanced Clubs in District 53...
  • DiversityUSA Advanced Club, Ridgefield (CT) Library,
    meets on the 4th Thursday, 7:15-8:45pm.

  • ProSpeakers, Springfield (MA) Chamber of Commerce
    meets on the 3rd Thursday 6:30-8:30pm.

  • Central CT Advanced Toastmasters, meetings 4th Wed @ NU, Berlin, CT
  • NEW Advanced club forming... Capital Advanced Toastmasters, South Saratoga Chamber of Commerce office, near Albany, NY. Meets the 1st Monday of the month, 6:30-8:00pm. Contact Melinda Burns at mburns14 [at] for more info.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Congratulations: A New Club in Division E

Welcome and Congratulations to the Club sponsors, charter members and all who made this new Toastmasters Club possible.

ESPI Toastmasters Club (O) Open to all interested parties

Meeting Place:
Energy Services Providers, Inc. (ESPI)
877 South St, Pittsfield, MA 01201

District: 53
Area: E1 (Thanks to Ann Bloch!)
Club Number: 1223576

Charter Date: 08/20/2008

Meeting Time: 12:30 pm, Wednesday

Phone: 866 937 3774

Energy Services Providers, Inc. (ESPI) supplies electricity and natural gas, and a variety of other energy cost savings services (energy-efficient lighting, HVAC, compressors, controls, etc.) in several states. ESPI is currently the fastest growing electricity supplier in the State of New York.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Presidential Citation for Ute Brinkmann

From: Roger H Brown

Subject: Presidential Citation
for Ute Brinkmann

On behalf of the members of District 53, we extend Congratulations and Thanks to Ute Brinkmann, DTM for the dedication to excellence and the contributions made to District 53, its Clubs and its members.
Ute was presented with a Presidential Citation from TI President Chris Ford at the Hall of Fame ceremonies at the annual TI Convention held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Ute's award reads:

The Presidential Citation
is presented to

Ute Brinkmann, DTM

for outstanding contributions to Toastmasters International
and its program of
Communication and Leadership

Chris K. Ford, DTM, President
International Convention
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
August 2008

District 53 recognized at International Convention

Congratulations to our '07-08 District Leadership Team!

At the Hall of Fame ceremonies at the 77th Annual Toastmasters International Convention held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada our District 53 was recognized as a Distinguished District.

In the picture, we see our top 3 leaders for 2007-08 holding recognition awards: Marsha Kiley "Excellence in Marketing;"Karin Von Kaenel "Excellence in Education and Training;" andWill Ryan "Distinguished District."

The Distinguished District Program recognizes those districts that meet Toastmasters International’s growth and educational goals. The program, which begins July 1st and ends June 30th, sets goals in the areas most critical to a district’s success. Every district that meets all its goals and the program prerequisites is awarded the designation Distinguished District.

Photo caption: From left to right,Ute Brinkmann (Presidential Citation recipient), R7 International Director Val Albert, Deb Grehn, Don Logie, LGET Marsha Kiley,DG Karin Von Kaenel, Immediate Past TI President Chris Ford,IPDG Will Ryan, and Rich Couture.

NOTE: Thanks to Roger Brown for passing along this post.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ignite ... a new(?) speaking format

I just heard about an interesting speaking "format" called Ignite.
If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers...

Ignite usually has two parts: the Ignite Contest, where people make things, and Ignite Talks, where presenters get 20 slides and five minutes to make their point. Sometimes I've only had Talks, but the contest is fun and can serve as a great warm-up for the talks.
This activity is similar to Pecha Kucha (check out this post for news on that) and either format might be adapted to create an interesting Toastmasters theme meeting. (Don't forget the D53 Meeting Theme contest wiki !)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

If it's worth doing, it's worth SINGING !

It has been a while since I posted something from Seth Godin (my favorite marketing author & blogger), but when I saw this post, I just had to pass it along...

Sing it!

I spent some time a few days ago listening to a nascent band performing classic rock songs.

The first group sang a note-for-note rendition of a song by the Stones. The notes were right, but nothing else was. The singer didn’t know what the song meant. And the musicians, they just stood there. No energy, no smiles, no connection. It could have been a funeral with a great soundtrack.

A concert isn’t about the music, is it? And a restaurant isn’t about the food.

The funny thing is that learning to Sing It is a lot easier than learning how to play the guitar. For some reason, we work on the technique before we worry about adding the joy.

If you’re going to go to all the trouble of learning the song and performing it, then SING IT. Sing it loud and with feeling and like you mean it. Deliver it, don’t just make it. When you answer the phone or greet me at your office or come to a meeting or write something, don’t bother if all you’re going to do is do it. Sing it or stay home.

As a speaker or artist, how often do we get trapped by the mechanics of what we are doing and forget that a good part (probably the biggest part) of the value comes from our emotion and connection with the material.

In other words, how we SING IT !

Are you singing today? Why not?
Leave a comment below and tell us !

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What have Marsha and Karin gotten themselves into?

When I saw the 3rd panel (shown to the right) in this comic strip (see link below for the full strip), I thought it might be a glimpse into the year ahead for Karin & Marsha...

Don't worry Marsha & Karin ... at least it will be a FUN YEAR !

Dave Wheeler
D53 LGM, 2008-9

One benefit of Toastmasters Evaluations...

I was reading an article by David J. Pollay (author of "The Law of The Garbage Truck") recently and came across the following quote...

...Martin Seligman, co-founder of Positive Psychology, and Christopher Peterson, an expert on strengths and virtues in people, found in their research that by simply naming a strength in someone you amplify it. ...
Doesn't that sound like a Toastmasters evaluation? Did you realize you had that power over the speaker you are evaluating?

This is just one more aspect to think of when you are giving evaluations...
amplifying strengths (notice strengths is PLURAL)
and helping to overcome weaknesses !

What's your tip to improve Toastmasters evaluations?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Happy Swiss National Day !

In honor of our District 53 Governor's heritage, we direct your attention to today's special occasion...

August 1st is Swiss National Day !

According to wikipedia...

It is celebrated each year on August 1st with town-wide paper lantern parades, bonfires, hanging strings of Swiss flags and fireworks.
You might also want to check out the district 53 website to see what the district theme logo looks like ! I'm not sure if it will be there tomorrow so this might be a "limited time offer"!

Be The Change You Want To See!