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February 2023
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You’ve Got It All Backward

Special meeting sparks spontaneity.

By Megan Preston Meyer


Man posing in handstand position

One popular way to turn the agenda on its head is to, literally, turn it on its head. A backward session (sometimes called a “reverse meeting”) requires imagination. It starts with the Toastmaster of the Day thanking the guests for attending, and then “closing” the meeting, and continues with the general evaluator offering their assessment of the meeting.

The timer reports on speaker punctuality, and the grammarian congratulates the attendees for using the Word of the Day so frequently. The evaluators evaluate the speakers, the Table Topics participants speak extemporaneously for one to two minutes, and then the Table Topicsmaster asks them a question. The speakers give their prepared speeches … and then the Club President calls the meeting to order.

You might find that some of the evaluations turn out to be self-fulfilling when the Word of the Day count exceeds that of an average meeting and everyone stays within their time limits!

Backward meetings are a great way to improve your improvisation skills, says Kristin Nickells, DTM, a Toastmaster in Canada. Consider the member giving a speech after their evaluator has given the evaluation.

“They take the feedback given and run with it,” she says. For example, if the evaluator says, “The speaker made wild gestures and their repeated scratching of their nose was distracting,” then the speaker is playfully challenged to incorporate such actions in their speech, she adds.

“As in improv, the more that members play along, the more fun the meeting is,” says Nickells, a member of the Arbutus, Mid Island Advanced, and World of Difference Toastmasters clubs in British Columbia, Canada. “It also gives a whole new perspective to an ordinary meeting and keeps everyone on their toes, listening for their cues.”

Julia Calderon, DTM, a member of the Hispano-Americano Toastmasters and the DTM Driven to Motivate club, both in Illinois, is also a big fan of the backward meeting. She says it adds an element of humor and “inspires members and guests to be creative.”

“As a group, we all laugh and enjoy ourselves. We’ve had guests join our club due to the camaraderie witnessed at this special meeting,” says Calderon.

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