When the world changes, we have choices to make. My world changed three years ago when I received my diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This is a nervous system disease that weakens muscles and affects physical function. After the shock of the diagnosis sank in, I wondered what the rest of my life would be like. I quickly realized this deadly disease was affecting my ability to swallow and speak, among other challenges. It soon became evident I could no longer speak clearly, which meant reconsidering my future as a Toastmaster.
I was saddened by no longer being able to participate in club meetings. Then it struck me. What did I love to do most as a Toastmaster? The answer came easily: Evaluate speeches! Ever since I joined Toastmasters in 1996, I was drawn to the evaluation part of our program. It resonated with me, especially in light of my career as a professional development trainer. We used the “sandwich method” of constructive feedback in every leadership training program I facilitated.
So it was a natural fit for me to gravitate to the evaluation process in Toastmasters as well. I have been honored to conduct evaluation workshops at clubs, Toastmasters District Leadership Trainings (TLIs), and District conferences. I produced an evaluations training manual with the foreword written by 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking Lance Miller, DTM. And many Toastmasters have complimented my contributions as their evaluator. Basically, what makes me effective at evaluating is that I love coaching! Isn’t that what evaluating is all about?
My challenge was figuring out how to offer verbal evaluations if I no longer had a voice to audibly speak. Once again, the answer was easy—if speakers provided video recordings, I could submit written feedback.
I began video recording the speakers in my home club, Downtown St. Pete Toastmasters in St. Petersburg, Florida, and offering my feedback through email. As this process was welcomed by many members, I thought, Why not try and expand the concept to other clubs? So I did, through email invitations to literally every District leadership team in the world.
My invitations offering silent evaluations by email espoused the rationale that video recording one’s speech allows the speaker to actually see what the feedback refers to in the evaluation! In fact, with a video file, the speaker might review it several times for potential adjustments to their speaking style. And this video feedback process might include any number of Toastmasters, even beyond my home club. Recently, the world changed again. This time with a global pandemic that has caused Toastmasters everywhere to consider the option of using video in their online meetings, trainings, and contests. As fate would have it, online video conferencing offers a major advantage in videoing speeches!
Like our organization’s transition to Pathways, change happens, and we have a choice on how to react to those changes. I am asking all Toastmasters to embrace the idea of video recording your presentations and use it as a rehearsal tool for your speech preparations, in your club meetings, and in trainings. Since the beginning of Toastmasters as an organization, the core of its mission has been to assist one another in the development of communications and leadership skills. Let’s keep doing that as a global team of Toastmasters! Embrace using video to connect with your Toastmasters family and allow members like me to help you reach your goals and become a better presenter.
Zoom and other video-conferencing programs make recording your speeches easy and accessible to others, with your permission. Consider if this is a benefit to you. If so, I’m looking forward to seeing your speech and offering my feedback, honed by my more than two decades’ experience as an evaluator and as a Distinguished Toastmaster. I may have lost my voice in the physical sense, but I retain a keen eye and offer to assist a fellow Toastmaster along their journey to becoming a better speaker and leader. I hope you are interested in exploring this exciting new addition to the evaluation process.
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll create a plan for silent, helpful evaluations!
Bob Turel, DTM is a 24-year member of Clearwater Sunday Speakers in Clearwater, Florida, U.S. He is a District 48 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and affectionately known as “The Sandwich Master.”