In the last week, I've visited 3 clubs that were holding their club contests, as I strive to learn more about District 26 and take in the level of talent here in the Denver area. I love the competition aspect of TM this time of year, as it often brings out the best of those participating, and encourages many to focus more energy on their speech than normal.
I've been a Toastmaster for 12 years, a professional coach for 6, and I've seen hundreds, of speakers over the years, from new members giving their Icebreaker to Zig Ziglar and Tom Hopkins at their best. As I watched and judged the speakers (not officially, just in my own head), I found myself sizing each one of them up fairly quickly: not enough gestures - talks too fast -stories need more impact. The negatives piled up - and I realized how easy it can be to lose one of the biggest points of Toastmasters.
As a coach, it's my job to find and fix the negatives in my clients speeches and performances. But it's also to reinforce the good - and that's a lesson Toastmasters is designed to teach quite well. Even to the point that TM is often criticized for 'whitewash evaluations' and not being critical at all, leaving their speakers vulnerable in the real world.
Evaluation and coaching is a balancing act between kudos and critique. Too much praise spoils the speaker, too much criticism can close mouths for weeks and months at a time.
The winners at each club I visited were all solid and deserving speakers. But every speaker did something well, and every speaker could improve - and each deserved to hear about it at the end.
Watch the evaluations in your club. Record your own. Is your pendulum swinging too far one way or another?