Toastmasters – What I am Learning


As well as presenting prepared speeches in Toastmasters, there are many other roles you can take on during a meeting.  One of the roles I try to take up regularly because I feel this is where I need more practice, is giving evaluations.  Everything at Toastmasters is evaluated – even the evaluators!  What does this all mean, though?

For each prepared speech, someone is assigned to give a two to three minute impromptu speech, evaluating the speaker and how they met their project objectives.  Yesterday I evaluated a speech given by a very confident speaker, and his project was ‘vocal variety’.  I thought he did a fantastic job, and when I stood up to evaluate him, I struggled to come up with things that he should improve upon.  Part of an evaluation is to speak about what you really liked, what the person did really well, but also to provide them with information that they can use to improve future speeches.

Giving feedback is actually really difficult, there is the struggle of finding that balance.  Also, as it is being done in a meeting, therefore in public, I feel pressure to remain completely positive, even when there are things that obviously stand out in the speech as needing to be done differently.  But all of this is something I am learning as I go, in a very supportive environment, and that is okay.  What was pointed out to me this morning, however, which I wasn’t entirely aware of, is this:

I keep apologising!

Apparently each time I am up there and feeling that I am not doing a good job of evaluating someone, I say “sorry”.  It might be because I’m about to let them know something which will help them improve, or it might be because, like yesterday, I am giving only positive feedback.  But why am I apologising?  What is there to apologise for, when I am completing a task that has been set for me?

Confidence is a funny thing.  I think that I am quite confident getting up and speaking in front of people, but when I am not sure what to say or how to say it, instead of just stopping or pausing, I have been saying “sorry”.  I will point out my flaws to a room full of people who may NOT have noticed otherwise, or may in fact think I am doing a good job.  Once I tell them I am not, however, they are left with the impression that I am in fact doing poorly.  Or, I might be annoying them because I am being too self-deprecating and it may not come across as sincere.

My challenge for myself, in Toastmasters, is to own what I say, and stop apologising for it.  I am being honest, and authentic, and never negative or mean.  So what am I saying sorry for?




  1. I am so impressed you can do ANY kind of public speaking. It makes me a nervous wreck.
    This seems like something you really enjoy so I’m sure you’ll do a great job with owning what you say! Be sure to tell us how you do!

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