The Toastmaster Invocation

Tonight I volunteered to deliver an Invocation at the Tampa Toastmasters Club #1810, the Oldest and Most Prestigious Club in Tampa Bay! Well, we started in 1955 so that’s quite a number of meetings ago! I usually look to see if I have a “back-pocket” invocation from a prior year. This is an added benefit from belonging to three different clubs in District 48! It also helps, when as a Toastmaster addict, you’re also a certified packrat.  I think that Invocations should be less prayer and more meaningful thought!  A Prayer from Billy Graham that he wrote for the Saturday Evening Post in 2008 seems to fit the bill. I will lighten the Christian emphasis so as to accommodate the beliefs of all and keep the time under around two minutes.  I hope to get back to Blogging since I went Quiet in 2016 with nary a post about this wonderful gift called Toastmasters! – Jim


My Secret Recipe For Judging

Diane, a Toastmaster from St. Paul, MN, asked on Facebook “Does anyone else think that the method of trying to judge each speech contestant on the judging criteria without comparing each to the other is odd? I watch judges fill out the contestants names from right to left across the top of the judging form and then fold back the page after each contestant, so they can’t see how they scored previous contestants. I’ve heard chief judges promote this method during the judges briefing and the little voice in my head says, “Huh? This is a contest! We should be comparing them.” I wonder how this method got started? (I don’t use this method).”

One respondent reminded that the Judging Sheet is a “Guide”!

Here is how I judge a Toastmaster speech contest – I judge one against the other. After the first speaker he/she is Number one. If the second speaker is better she/he becomes Number one and I make a second tick mark for that first speaker. I make notes on a separate piece of paper of wonderful things I heard, saw or felt and opportunities for improvement. Then by speaker 7 or 8 I know why or why not they exceed the performance of the speaker I heard almost an hour ago. I’m probably not judging properly but I’ve used this approach in Optimist International, Tropicana Speech Contests, Rotary Speech Contests and the U.S. Academic Decathlon. I don’t see how you can simply have raw scores by themselves without seeing how each speaker compares with the other competitors that he or she is facing.

My review of Lance Miller’s Building a Championship (Toastmasters) Club

Toastmasters International 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking has delivered over 2,500 speeches in over 28 countries from Saudi Arabia to China to Ireland on the fundamentals of public speaking, leadership, effective management, sales and overcoming failure and adversity. I recently had a chance to view this excellent and discovered many great ideas. Although I’m not sure that every club needs to try to reach a “championship status” all clubs should aspire to be the best that they can possibly be. I believe that one of the most important ingredients for success is that all club members, not just officers, take ownership of a club’s success.

One of the most important steps to success is to schedule speakers a week or more ahead of time. I believe this works best when a monthly schedule is passed around at the regular weekly meetings.
Lance Miller’s recommendation that meetings always start on time is a very important one especially for business clubs that meet during the workday. I know it is important to be more consistent in enforcing starting on time. At Suncoast Toastmasters Club our sergeant at arms gavels the meeting open exactly at 7:00 PM every Tuesday night.

The recommendation that you have a professional place to meet is a worthy goal. Of course not every club has the flexibility to control its environment. It is sometimes difficult to find places to meet that come without distractions.

I love the idea of themed meetings. I believe the important thing is that themes be announced at least a week or two weeks ahead of time. This way Table Topic Masters and even speakers can try to stay on topic. Lance Miller does allude to “backwards meetings” which personally I’ve never been a fan of. I guess I’m a little too serious.

Lance Miller has visited many, many clubs and as Area Governors we should encourage our clubs to do the same. Maybe we should even schedule joint club meetings every quarter. Suncoast #1667 has done this several times with Tampa Toastmasters Club #1810.

Lance’s club has 95 members which might seem rather unwieldy but since they have three hour meetings every week that isn’t so bad. Also apparently 25 to 30 members are not regular members! Lance never really explains that fact!

The role of the president at Lance Miller’s is club is really unique. I like the fact that he took it upon himself to make sure that members knew that he cared! I don’t want to see too many of our club presidents spend 4 to 6 hours a week every week. GE’s can check with Evaluators and Toastmasters confirm speakers each week. The recommendation that the executive committee meet regularly is a sound one. I liked Lance Miller’s recommendation that meetings start off with a bang

It is important to that veteran club members participate. Sometimes they go weeks and even months without actually delivering a speech. I am not sure that I agree with the dress code. I do think though it is important for the scheduled speakers to dress professionally.

There is reference in the CD to a member survey. I think that’s a good idea for clubs to find out what their members are thinking. It is important to know each member’s personal goals. Some want to become a DTM while others may just want to become more comfortable speaking at work. I really appreciated Lance Miller suggesting that all club members are in this together. The suggestion to add extra meetings so members of the club can meet their goals could be addressed by Area Governors helping facilitate speaking across the various clubs in their Division.

It is important to emphasize to new members that at toastmaster club is indeed a safe place. Lance’s advanced club’s pre-CTM speakers do not compete with more experienced speakers! It is a good idea when clubs schedule two or three Icebreaker speeches on the same night! When it comes to a evaluations I that like the recommendation to find out what’s right in a speech. Lance mentioned checking what people had done earlier. I recommend that evaluators sometimes look at speakers prior evaluator comments and see what the recommendation was as a way of helping measure consistency and progress…

One thing that clubs that I belong to concentrate on doing is giving individual attention i.e. Love Notes from members present to each speaker. I agree with the recommendation to bring experienced toastmasters especially for clubs that are struggling. I have invited speech contest winners to speak at some of my clubs.
I really object to toastmasters who only show up at meetings where they have a speaking role. I think that practice should be discouraged by the Vice President of Education and those members certainly shouldn’t be given priority over members who show up each week.

Finally as grammarian I have to point out that Lance speaks of letting something “foster” when I think he should have said “fester”. I also didn’t like the suggestion that someone might say “I can’t wait until your next speech”. I think that is a hackneyed expression similar to “without further ado”.

This is a really good tool that I shared with my club presidents last year when I served as an Area Governor.

Evaluation Tips To Make You A Contest Winner

Thanks to the 2007 District 36 Evaluation Speech Winner Christine Clapp and Author, Jeremey Donovan. Some great advice including that a speech evaluation must have an introduction, body, and conclusion. Great suggestion that during the introduction you start off by thanking the speaker and saying something relevant, personal, and positive. That way you connect to the speaker and the audience that includes the judges! Great advice to know where the speaker is actually sitting when it comes time to evaluate her/him because last year this happened at the District 48 Evaluation Contest. A very experienced Toastmaster was left speaking to the wrong person when he didn’t know where the Test Speaker was sitting! Not entirely fair when subsequent contestants were told where he was sitting! I heartedly agree with making sure you win the 15 points for “In Summary” or “In Conclusion” “…call back to the positive detail you used during the introduction. Then, encourage the speaker to apply a relevant call-to-action related to the Toastmasters communication or leadership track.” I think this is some fantastic advice and honestly as someone who has won his Club Evaluation Contest I am tempted to hide this educational snippet until I win the entire District 48 Contest or I’m defeated along the way! But really the great lesson of Toastmasters is if you believe it is a Gift you become more fully engaged not when you achieve your personal DTM but when you help someone along the way. Who knows the Toastmaster who takes this advice to heart may be the one who evaluates one of my speeches in 2015 and then I’ve become the beneficiary of that learning.

The Road To Better Toastmaster Evaluations

I am an Area Governor for just two more days! After that I hope to get to this Blog a little more often because I truly believe in the awesomeness that is Toastmasters!


Evaluations an important part of becoming a skilled speaker and one of the areas that offer the most opportunity for improvement in many Toastmaster Clubs! In the June 2012 issue of Toastmasters Magazine the subject of evaluations showed up twice. The Scrupulous Sandwich Approach, by Jenny Baranick, expanded the evaluation sandwich method. The Scrupulous Sandwich Approach suggests starting the evaluation with something positive, followed by “constructive criticism”, then end with another statement of praise. This is known as the sandwich method. However after much thought and discussion with Toastmasters District 48’s own Sandwich Master, Bob Turel, I take exception to using the term “constructive criticism”! Bob prefers we use the word “feedback” and after much thought I agree. I think that if you look up the definitions you’ll understand that we oftentimes don’t welcome criticism even when someone suggests to us that it will be “constructive”. In fact Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary version says criticism is “…the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing…” Feedback, however is described as “helpful information” (also “or criticism”) that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc”. I do like the recommendations that Jenny makes as to “preparing” to evaluate! Hence, speaker and evaluator should get together ahead of the Toastmaster meeting with the General Evaluator encouraging the dialogue. If a new speaker has a Mentor that Toastmaster can encourage linking up with the Evaluator. He/She can also try to make certain that the Mentee’s first couple of speeches has the benefit of the warm and fuzzy evaluator who is fair and balanced taking into consideration that this speaker may be nervous and uncertain!


Evaluation preparation should include getting the speech project “well before the meeting”. This gives the individual evaluator a chance to become familiar with the project including reviewing the speech objectives and the evaluator guide. The assigned evaluator should ask the speaker to provide his/her individual goals which could be a desire for making more riveting eye contact, using vocal variety, moving away from the use of notes et. al.  


During the speech the evaluator should observe the speaker’s movements and concentrate on the manner in which the speaker starts the speech, transitions to the body, then to the conclusion. Bob Turel, Jenny and others suggest noting the positives on one side of paper and the recommendations or growth opportunities on the other side. I prefer using x marks for suggestions and check marks for “atta boys”. When I want to emphasize one or two in either category I draw a circle around the mark! I think it could also help for the evaluator to take a few glances at the audience and see their reactions. I sometimes miss this opportunity.


The second article in that issue was by Colleen Pimpton. She suggests that you treat each evaluation like a short speech, striving not to use notes. I’ve tried Bob Turel’s suggestion of five or six large bulleted points on a paper that you (or the Sgt. At Arms) can place on the floor freeing you, as evaluator, to use more gestures. Her additional recommendations are to evaluate skilled speakers and enter evaluation contests!


Some newer Toastmasters shy away from evaluating the experienced members of their clubs. The best advice I read was to evaluate “as if you are a member of the audience” because as just one other member we have a right to form our own opinions about the speech! Remember without an audience all you have are words!


If your club hits a homerun with most of its evaluations you are a step ahead of many clubs!

The Starfish Story

The Starfish Story

…I recently heard a Toastmaster tell The Starfish Story and I thought it is very overused. In my opinion if a speaker wants to speak about the starfish he/she should take another angle such as “What if you were that starfish? ” Or make a modern reference such as late last year when a dozen tourists in Rio de Janeiro  saved 20 beached dolphins – “They must have taken to heart when their teacher read to them about the starfish!” It isn’t your words that matter but your AUDIENCE

Or in dealing with the issue of Runaways…Each year there are 200-300 “starfish” …kids 10-17 who have been victims of abuse or neglect, thrown out of their homes or totally ignored. These young lives wash up on the steps of the New Beginnings Youth Shelter. Let me introduce Angel a starfish who arrived at our RAP House Shelter in New Port Richey and who needed someone to lift her up and save her.

I also think that if you’re a Toastmaster you’ve got to get away from using “Without further Ado”! That is so worn out as to be a filler word itself!