On the Table – Topics for Toastmasters Season 1 episode 17
Sometimes eating words can be rich and tasty – like “Happy Birthday” in buttercreme icing on a cake. In this case… not so much. Today I’m talking about Advanced Clubs on the table.
When I was working toward my DTM, I was a member of the Hall of Fame Advanced Club in the District 10 southern Division. I was a member for about a year, but then I quit. I quit two other clubs at the same time – being a member of 4 clubs was a bit more than I could handle – time-wise and financially. I know there are plenty of Toastmasters out there who do it.
In my position as DTM Mentorship Chair, it’s my pleasure to go visit the advanced clubs – that’s where the Toastmasters who may be interested in achieving their DTM tend to be. My job is to let them know about the resources, teams and mentoring programs we have for them to help them get to their goals.
I’ve been to the Eastside Advanced Toastmasters club once before – they canceled it due to the weather. It’s a long haul from my southern division home up to Euclid, so when I heard that Eastside Advanced was planning an open house in Shaker Heights… Ok, so I saved maybe 5 or 6 miles of driving.
But I went.
What a meeting!
Let me play you a clip from a recent interview I had with Area 23 Governor Janet Wasserman about that meeting.
Kim Krajci: I visited Eastside Advanced recently for an open house.
Janet Wasserman: Yes, you did.
KK: I gotta tell you, I was amazed at how good the evaluations were for that club. I have been saying, “I’m not going to join, I’m not going to join advanced clubs because they’re not worth the value to me. You guys convinced me otherwise that it worth the money of putting every six months to get that kind of quality evaluation.
JW: Yes. Thank you for coming to our open house. I know I spoke with you there. Thank you for appreciating the what we are doing in the advanced clubs. I know that these are necessary clubs for our district because a lot of these Toastmasters have been in Toastmasters for many years, and they know the ability to give a quality evaluation, which is so necessary. Eastside Advanced has revamped their intention. We dropped Table Topics because we believe that everyone can get that out there in their home clubs. We are focusing many on speeches and definitely evaluations.
KK: They were top notch. They were amazing. The kind of evaluation that I as a speaker would want to have.
JW: Yes. Like you said, the value of belonging to an advanced club is deep.
KK: I sure wish your club was a whole lot closer than 60 miles from my house.
JW: Yes, I tell people it’s not a big commitment because we meet once a month. But the learning that will come away from just belonging to and coming out to an advanced club meeting is great.
I mean no denigration of the other advanced clubs when I say that this was the ideal advanced club meeting. What do I look for in an advanced club and why didn’t I want to join one?
When I went to the Eastside Advanced open house, I was treated to several well-prepared speakers. None of them were just phoning in a presentation. I could tell they’d all practiced. They were taking their role as speaker seriously.
That was really inspiring to me.
Visiting Eastside Advanced put me in with a room full of Toastmasters I’d never heard speak before and they brought out their A game.
I’d forgotten this level of push to improve. It was one of the major factors in me joining Toastmasters some 5 years ago – being around people who were dedicated to improving their skills and helping me with mine.
These clubs meet monthly. That’s 12 meetings per year, if the district doesn’t accidently schedule something else on the same weekend that the advanced club meets. 12 Meetings – 4 speeches per meeting – that’s 48 slots to be filled. Getting one of them was hard back in those days. I frequently had to sign up months in advance. While that’s a feature and not a bug to many, I often forgot until the agenda came out the week before the meeting that I had a speech to do. Even adding a note in my calendar didn’t help – and I fully hold only myself responsible for this – I would just as often throw something together.
I guess I didn’t value the club the way I should.
But the past few months, my regular club has brought in a number of new members. They think the DTM after my name on my name plate is a big deal and I get lots of compliments for my speeches. They are still learning how to evaluate and while I don’t mind giving speeches for them to learn, I’m not always getting the level of feedback I need to improve my speaking skills.
This sounds rather snobby, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it that way. It perfectly demonstrates the value of the advanced club. Restricting membership to Toastmasters who are at least halfway through the Competent Communicator means that all members have been evaluated at least 6 times themselves. They will know from experience what a good evaluation should be.
When I walked in, I was handed the agenda and a welcome packet. That was normal – as the VP Membership in my club, I do the same. But this time, I was also given three evaluation sheets. I was expected to fill these out during the speeches.
That was a nice touch. I often take notes about speakers during speeches when I know there’s going to be a round robin evaluation – where everyone is given a chance to comment on a speech, often with a time limit. This helped me organize my thoughts and gave specific points for me to consider. Then, when the evaluator was done, the General Evaluator asked the audience for comments.
I’ve seen this done in different ways at different clubs. I think it may be the seating arrangement that dictates how the round robins are organized – can people see the timer may determine the format. I’m most familiar with the practice of asking the timer to signal at a certain point – say 30 seconds – for the round robin evaluation to move to the next person. I like this practice personally – it eliminates a lot of the “I really enjoyed your speech” that every evaluation seems to begin with because you simply don’t have time to waste. Get to the point of growth. Short and to the point.
Having a form in front of me helped me in one particular speech. I just don’t like poetry. Really. I just don’t. So when we had a poetry presentation, I would have been at an utter loss to give an evaluation of any value to the speaker and since she’d written the piece herself, I was afraid that I’d have nothing to say and therefore insulting to her. That form let me jot a few notes that I thought were things that I know – having read the manual for the speech evaluator and having done this kind of evaluation not only in Toastmasters but also as a high school speech judge – were points that I thought were probably wrong.
I have to tell you, Janice Sewell knocked it out of the park. It was simply the finest evaluation I’ve ever heard. She had several points of growth – some were things I’d noted on my paper. She had several more things that once they’d been pointed out, I agreed with, but overall, I’d missed most of what Janice pointed out. Janice was polite and clearly invested in helping our poetess improve her presentation, but didn’t try to cushion the blow. Her honest appraisal made me want her to evaluate me!
So, today I’m announcing: I’m eating my words. I joined an advanced club.
I’ve got two 20 minute presentations on the agenda in the next 4 months. I’m already starting to work on one and have – at the advanced club meeting – consulted with another Toastmaster about the topic for the second. I will come prepared as a speaker to those meetings, and I will bring evaluation sheets for the club members to fill in and give me, if they choose.
If you’ve completed 6 of the 10 manual speeches in the Competent Communicator manual, then you are eligible for membership in the three District 10 advanced clubs. Westside Advanced meets on the first Saturday of the month in the Westlake Porter Public Library from 9 to noon. Eastside Advanced meets on first Monday of the month at the Euclid Public Library at 6:45 p.m. Hall of Fame Advanced meets on the 2nd Saturday of the month at the Creative Source offices near Belden Village Mall at 8 a.m. I’ve been to all three – each of them is excellent. You will find extraordinary speakers with a desire to help others succeed. Don’t hesitate to come to a meeting – you will be welcome.
Did you know that Toastmasters District 10 has a new Facebook page? Yep – we’re out there for the world to find us. A team of Toastmasters has created a daily public speaking tip with a link to our District10.org website to help people find clubs. Go to Facebook and search for Toastmasters District 10 (that’s the number, not spelled out) and you can “like” it and get the daily feed on your Facebook page. Share the tips with your friends and spread the news to the some 2 million citizens of northeastern Ohio who can benefit from joining our clubs.
Another bit of “did you know” trivia about Toastmasters District 10 – do you know we have a Speakers Bureau? Yes we do! Go to District10.org and find the link to several area speakers who are ready to present at your events – hosts, MCs and speakers – to meet your needs. Check it out today.