Evaluating Online Speeches in Toastmasters

Evaluating Online Speeches Toastmasters 101

Evaluating online speeches:  how do we Toastmasters do it?

Getting a new computer.

For some people it’s exciting. It’s wonderful. A clean slate with speed and power.  Maybe now I can fill out evaluations on my computer and send them back to people?

Moving to a new computer for me isn’t really traumatic, but it is not a task I want to face. In fact, I’ve been putting it off for months. I had the new desktop sitting in its box right beside me but… until the last gasp of the old desktop warned me that I had to move now, I didn’t wanna.  There are the 10 bazillion miles of black cables…

A new computer opens up new opportunities for me.  Moving Toastmasters meetings online opens up new opportunities for all of us, such as evaluating online speeches.

INTRO

Are you ready to improve your public speaking and leadership skills?  Then you are ready for Toastmasters.  We’re an international organization that teaches these skills in a safe and fun environment.  Welcome to Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

Fillable PDFs

Evaluations are the one problem I have with having our clubs online.

Evaluations are the key component of Toastmasters. You can get public speaking training in a lot of places – most of them for a lot more money – but getting immediate feedback is where real growth is made.

So what do we do with our evaluation forms?

Tell your fellow Toastmasters about this podcast episode because I’m sharing a secret with you that can change how we manage online evaluation forms.

Until this past week, I’ve been stumped by the evaluation forms. My old computer system didn’t let me fill in PDFs.

Please don’t try to understand it. I never could. It was allergic to Adobe and hated fillable PDFs. But it’s retired now, so one of the first programs I’ve downloaded is Adobe PDF reader.

Please don’t take this as an endorsement of Adobe. I actually prefer another program that I used instead – Foxit – but I know most people use Adobe. So we’ll talk about it here on the podcast.

Here’s the other deal with evaluation forms. You can get them in different places.

Three different places.
  1. From the speech project on Base Camp. You’ll see a drop-down menu at the bottom of the screen – Your Evaluation is one of the choices. You may download it and send it to your evaluator. This is a fillable PDF, so if they have the option, they can fill it out and email it to you.
  2. From the Tutorials and Resources menu at the top of the Pathways screen. Click on the menu option Evaluation Resources and then, be smart.
  • Pick your language. There are 11 languages – do you really want to download the evaluation in Tamil if you speak French?  Tamil uses a beautiful alphabet! But if my evaluator can’t read it, it’s really not very valuable, is it?
  • Use Control F on my windows desktop to find the evaluation I want, because they’re named according to the title of the speech project. So if you’re looking for the evaluation for the level 2 project about Leadership Style – you’d better know that the name of the project is actually “Understanding Your Leadership Style” which means it’s lost down at the end of the list in the middle of 5 different projects that start with the word “understanding.” You’ll find it eventually, but using the search option is a lot faster.

3. Free Toast Host also has access to the evaluation forms if you’re in a club that uses that platform for scheduling the meeting agenda. You can download the evaluation of the speaker when you’re the evaluator if the speaker has indicated which project they’re doing. Sadly, this option doesn’t apply to Easy Speak.

If your evaluator doesn’t have access to Toastmasters.org and Pathways, you may send it via the meeting platform. Zoom has a page about how to share documents – the link is in the show notes.

Online Evaluations

We’re on an online platform now. This does mean that we need to adjust our presentations accordingly. Do you know how movement translates on the screen?

I scared my fellow Toastmasters last week when I ranted – er- gave a speech – and leaned into the camera as a way to indicate my irritation with my computer cables – the bazillion miles of black cable that I have to unwrap from each other and try to determine where they go in the back of my new computer.

I know I scared one of them – he mentioned it in chat!  I never thought that evaluating online speeches would be scary!

Therefore, consider what this new platform requires in your performance. You may be able to record yourself with your computer camera to see what you’re going to look like.

Slides and Screen Shares

Also, pay attention to how you can share your screen if you have slides. We have one member who prepares a slide deck for almost every one of her speech projects – but consistently has issues sharing her screen. Sometimes it’s a problem because the host has to adjust settings and sometimes, it’s unfamiliarity with the platform. As the speaker, it’s our task to know how to share our screen if that’s what we want to do.

I love it when Kate shares her screen with her pictures – she’s got beautiful pictures from her native country to illustrate her points. Don’t give up on this option, even if it’s complicated! I have it all figured out on my desktop with my two monitors – but when I’m on a laptop, what a mess! I can’t even blame the cables – it’s my own lack of skill with Zoom.

Movement

Get out of your chair for your presentations. Your energy level won’t be the same as when you’re sitting. We can’t see your body language if all we are your neck, your face and maybe the tips of your fingers as you gesture.

Camera angle

Let’s remember to adjust the camera, too! I have one friend who has a very boring wall and ceiling joint in her kitchen – but that’s mostly what I see when we chat. Make sure that the camera angle also captures your face and not a backlit silhouette does.  This is definitely one of my worst problems – I’m right beside a sliding glass door for most of my online meetings.

Yes, yes, you’ve heard this all before. I know – I’ve said it! But remember, your evaluator might be looking at you for the very first time for evaluating online speeches. I’ve evaluated pre tty much everyone in our club when we met in person, but not many online.

Again, I learn more from my evaluation-giving than giving speeches or getting evaluations! I’m still learning about how to make the online experience work for the audience. When I have the right evaluation form in front of me to evaluate you, it helps me give you a good evaluation – but also to help me learn what I can do too!

Getting the Evaluation Form Is Easy, Sending Is Not

After the evaluation is completed and the meeting has ended, what do you do with an evaluation form when you’re evaluating online speeches?

Let’s consider a few options.

First, I’m lousy at taking notes online. Yes, I’m a boomer. I want to handwrite my notes because it’s faster for me when evaluating online speeches. So I’m probably going to print out your speech project evaluation form and write on it.

In the past, that was good enough for me to give to a speaker. Chicken scratches and all – you got the whole of my in-the-moment impressions of your speech and I handed it to you at the end of the evaluation with a handshake or at the end of the meeting.

The world is different now, isn’t it? Will we still shake hands in Toastmasters when we meet again in person? I don’t know?

The problem we face right now is how to get that evaluation form to the speaker.

And before you make fun of me for wanting a copy of it – please know that I keep these evaluations. I still have my first, second, third Competent Communicator manuals in a box in my basement. Some of those evaluators are gone now. Others live across the country. I’m going to be sentimental about those books for a while.

I also keep track of what I’ve done. Yes, I should be able to do that on Pathways, but in the past, I’ve printed out the evaluations and kept them in my Toastmasters bag to have on hand if I had a slot for a hip pocket speech.

So I like having a written evaluation in my hands.

Sending an Evaluation Form Is Complicated

How am I going to get that evaluation? How am I going to send it?

There are two obvious options. First, I print out the evaluation at my home, write on it, and then mail the physical copy to the speaker. I’ve done that. As long as I had my envelope with me and got the speaker’s mailing address during the meeting, that worked.  Evaluating online speeches with off-line technology?  I’ve done it.

The other way is to send them an electronic version. The key here is readability.

I know one Toastmaster who writes down notes, takes a picture of them, and then messages the pic over. I have to question the readability. Honestly, I can barely read the texts I get – pictures with words? I can barely read the memes my kids send to me.

So I’m old with bad eyes. This option may work for many people. I’m not belittling it or those who prefer it. I just… don ‘t.

The other obvious option is to fill in the PDF and send it to the speaker. Should I try to scan it with my original notes and email it or should I retype my notes on the PDF form? Should I send it through the meeting platform or email?

Club protocols for evaluating online speeches

These are all good questions. Some should be addressed by the club – it would be good if there were a club standard and everyone adhered to it.

In the Pathways platform, there is a way to discover your fellow club members’ emails. Go to Base Camp and type in the search box the member’s name. It will give you a page about your club member – their public information, including an email address. You can use that to email the evaluation because… you can’t use Pathways as a method of transmitting a document or a PDF.

Now, if you’re me, that’s an obvious feature that’s missing from Pathways. But is it?

There is another option, one that I’ve long ignored on Base Camp. My Feedback.

What’s Toastmasters doing about this?

We have an option to ask people for feedback on Pathways. We have an option to send our evaluations through the My Feedback tab if both the speaker and the evaluator are in the same club AND you are both logged into Pathways in the same club.

For example, Jenilee and I are in the same clubs and we can share with each other regardless of which club we’re signed in to. But Judy and I are only in one club together, and unless I’m signed into the Hall of Fame Advanced Speakers club on Pathways, I can’t find her to send her anything through the My Feedback option.

Part of me approves of this – less opportunity for spam, less useless messaging. But… the limitations of communication being only those in my one club seem needlessly exclusive if I’m a member of more than one club. Granted, not a very large number of people are dual members, but we’re out there.

My Feedback Tab

On the Base Camp page, search for a name of the person you want to send your filled-out evaluation to, and select them from the dropdown list. That opens up their profile screen. On the menu at the top, you’ll see an option Feedback. Click on that and you’ll have a place to send a message, including attaching a file. You can attach the PDF or image file there and send it directly to the speaker.

You will have to notify the speaker that you’re using the My Feedback messaging option. There doesn’t appear to be any email notification to you that you’ve got feedback mail.

You can also award badges, which are like electronic stickers or virtual pats on the back. I’ll talk about those some other time. This podcast is long enough!

I admit, I haven’t used the My Feedback options very often. It’s one of those buttons on Base Camp that I just don’t think about. But it’s time that I start – that we start – using it.

Wrap it up, Kim

Toastmasters 101 podcast is a production of Toastmasters District 10.

Our music is from Incompetech.filmmusic.io.

I’d like to congratulate Kitty Brandal of District 10 as our International Speech Contest winner and Jake Streeter for winning the Table Topics contest over the weekend at the District 10 virtual contest.

Stay hopeful.  Stay healthy!  Talk to you again on Toastmasters 101.

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