What’s a general evaluator? What do they do? Why should you take on the role?
As I was chatting with my protege Joy today about tomorrow’s meeting, she told me that it took her 3 weeks to figure out how to spell our club’s name.
Yeah, Cuyahoga is not the easiest word to spell or even guess at the spelling of. Since it’s most prominently known as an environmental disaster site in the 1950s and 60s, I never thought she’d have a hard time with it – but our burning river has apparently lived down its reputation.
You see, I have a blind spot. I’ve pretty much lived in this part of Ohio all of my life. I don’t notice that Cuyahoga – spelled C U Y A H O G A – is a complicated word to spell. So Joy, who lives about 800 miles from us, has no idea how to find us online.
That’s what a good general evaluator does for the club meetings. They help us look at the blind spots that club might miss. Today on the podcast, we take a look at the master of the Toastmasters secret sauce of success: the role of general evaluator.
Do you want to improve your public speaking skills? Do you want to develop the tools to become a great leader? Then Toastmasters is for you. In one hour, we can help you get started to reach your goals. This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci
The Challenge of General Evaluator
I’m going to guess that I’ve visited about 25 Toastmasters clubs in the United States in person. The role of the general evaluator changes from club to club, but the primary duty does not. The purpose of the general evaluator role is to take an overall look at the meeting – its structure and purpose – and how well this club met that standard.
Unfortunately, this aspect of the general evaluator role frequently is overlooked. I think many of my clubs think of the general evaluator as a beginner MC. The person who introduces the evaluators and calls on the timer, ah-counter, grammarian and word of the day reports, and then sits down.
So let’s talk it.
What should the general evaluator do?
In most northeastern Ohio clubs, the role of the general evaluator is like a junior Toastmaster of the Day. After the prepared speakers and Table Topics portions of the meeting, the general evaluator acts like a master of ceremonies, introducing people and leading the applause for a variety of reports. It’s pretty straightforward. Some long-time Toastmasters, when they see a problem in the structure of the meeting – such as starting late, or inappropriate behavior by the audience, might make a comment about how to improve the meeting. Ok, I’m guilty of the inappropriate behavior, but only when I sit next to Mike, who knows exactly what to say to make me crack up.
But too often, nothing more than calling for evaluators and reports is all the general evaluator does.
The Role of General Evaluator of a Toastmaster Meeting
In other clubs – and I’d say that this is a significant minority of the clubs I’ve visited – the role of the general evaluator is reduced. Their only task is an evaluation of the meeting toward the end, usually after the timer or grammarian. Like those roles, there isn’t a specific time limit, per se, but there is a common idea that these comments won’t exceed 2 minutes.
How your club uses the role of general evaluator is up to your club. I don’t think there’s one specific way. You can use the role as you wish – but let’s make it count.
When I was talking with my protege, she was looking at a description of the role she found through a search engine. She read both the Toastmaster of the Day and the General Evaluator role descriptions and was very puzzled by them because we don’t follow either of the protocols that she read.
How does your club use the general evaluator role? How can you make it work?
First, I think that a metric or matrix of what the general evaluator should do for your club is extremely valuable, especially to new members. I don’t think the role is intuitive – that a new member can pick up on what to evaluate and what the standard for your club meeting should be.
What should the general evaluator look at?
In no particular order, I think that the general evaluator ought to note
- the status of the meeting room.
- Was it prepared properly for the meeting before you started? You might not think that’s as important with the online meetings, but I think it is. If you have members who want to share their screens, has the zoom host adjusted the meeting session to permit it? While we don’t have a physical copy of the timer’s sheet or grammarians report, the GE might want to make sure that the members who are taking on those roles have the forms or have another way to record their reports.
- Was it clear how the timer was going to be giving time signals? We’ve seen several techniques used. I’m personally fond of the green dinosaur with the yellow and red nail polish bottles that we’ve seen one of our members use, but I know that Zoom and other programs do have the ability to change backgrounds. Did the Toastmaster of the day or another member explain how to make sure the speaker could see those signals?
- any timing issues: did the meeting start on time? Did the Toastmaster of the Day TMOD keep the meeting moving at a good pace? Did the TMOD have the necessary information in hand, such as introductions and speech titles, before the meeting started or get it during the meeting without being disruptive?
- Any flow issues: did the meeting move from section to section smoothly? Prepared speakers to Table Topics to Evaluations? Or Table Topics to prepared speakers to evaluators? Well-run meetings flow smoothly and without disruptions. In some ways, this is less of an issue with online meetings where distractions are quickly muted by the zoom host. But the club president or the sergeant at arms – whoever opens the meeting – can certainly make these transitions easier with a review of the agenda and role assignments at the beginning of the meeting.
Speaking of online meetings, the GE can certainly encourage members to change their online screen names to include their assigned role for this meeting in the future.
- Evaluate the evaluators. In everyone’s level 1 project 2, a Toastmaster is expected to give an evaluation of a prepared speech, and that evaluation is supposed to be evaluated. This should be the task of the general evaluator to fill out that form – so make sure you have it on hand. They are easy to download from the Toastmasters Pathways website. You can just download it once and then keep it on your hard drive to reuse as needed. I finally created a file folder called Toastmasters Evaluations and I’ve saved all my blank evaluation form downloads there on my desktop.
I’m not saying that’s the only evaluator that the general evaluator should evaluate. Every evaluator could use a few words of encouragement or even a point of growth. I remember the first time my friend Debbie gave me an evaluation of my evaluation – it was the first time I’d gotten comments to help me improve my evaluations.
- Address the Table Topics speakers: unless your club has evaluations of the Table Topics speaker, any positive comments are a nice touch. It’s not expected, but I’ve always appreciated it when my Table Topic minute is noted in a nice way.
All that in two minutes? You gotta be fast, man!
When I serve as general evaluator in person, I keep the agenda close and make notes on it. An agenda is more like written directions than it is a road map. Sometimes speeches go long – or short. Table Topics are too fun to quit or they were skipped altogether to permit a longer speech project to be completed. I don’t want to point out the obvious as a general evaluator. I want to address underlying causes that will improve future meetings!
Here’s a less than pleasant example. I once had a club president who was determined to end every meeting with a story. However, this club meeting was early in the morning, and people needed to leave on time to get to work. The president’s storytime consistently extended the meeting a good 10 minutes past our scheduled end time. A general evaluator might note that the club meeting isn’t ending on time and how that hurts some members – and hope that club president got the message.
A new club member isn’t going to notice that, but longtime Toastmasters will. We’re aware of the value of the general evaluator in developing leadership skills.
The general evaluator is an underappreciated leadership role. Especially in clubs where the role is simply a single report and not serving as an mc for the evaluation portion – there’s not much obvious leadership training going on.
I see the GE role as leadership because it’s a chance to closely watch and analyze how the people in the meeting understand and undertake their tasks. It’s not just listening skills that come into play. It’s observation and consideration of how to improve in the future. Great general evaluators create great meetings in the future.
This is why the GE role needs more attention. Our general evaluators are our mentors: they see what we can do better, but they’re not going to be like the coach who trains you. Nope, the GE is a mentor and we’d be wise to pay attention to them!
Changing your General Evaluator Role?
Should your club change the role of general evaluator?
That’s not my decision to make. It is one that the club executive committee might consider or present as an alternative to the club for the future. Maybe reducing the role to a single report would suit your club better because you’re under a time constraint and keeping the TMOD for the entire meeting would work for you. Or maybe expanding the role to include introducing evaluators and grammarians and timers might help provide a the newer members a baby step toward leadership.
It’s up to your club to decide. Whatever your club does – make the general evaluator role one that improves your club and your members’ experiences. You may find your club has some blind spots that need to be attended to – like making sure your club members know how to find your club’s website because they know how to spell your name!
Wrap it up, Kim
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Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.
Now’s the time of year that many countries see their students go back to school. This mindset gets into adults’ minds too. You might know a person who is considering joining Toastmasters but just isn’t convinced that it’s worth the money and effort right now. How about you invite him to come to a few more meetings and talk about their goals. Once we know what people are looking for, we may be able to help them discover how Toastmasters can help them, too.
Or you could suggest they listen to the Toastmasters 101 podcast. You can find us on the web at Toastmaster 101 dot net, or we can be found on almost all podcast player apps. We’re trying to get on some more international platforms, so let me know if there’s a place where you think we should be found.
Talk to you again on Toastmasters 101 podcast.