Welcome back :)
Now that we know how a meeting runs overall, let’s dive deeper into the three key components that make up a meeting: the prepared speeches, the Table Topics, and the Evaluations.
As we saw in the previous blog post, these are common elements across Toastmasters meetings no matter where you are in the world. But what does each entail? What do we learn from them?
Prepared speeches are the heart of any Toastmasters meeting. Using Pathways, the Toastmasters educational program, members select a project from their path around which to prepare their speech. Each project has different objectives, but the best known project of them all is the Ice Breaker. In this speech, the first-time member talks about anything they want to. It is a way to “break the ice” on your Toastmasters experience, something which a lot of people are very nervous to do! However, once people have gotten past their Ice Breaker, the sky is the limit. Typically, in the speech people will talk about some aspect of themselves - what could be easier to speak about, right? Projects in other parts of one’s path vary in objectives and length - you could be talking about something you have researched in 5-7 minutes, or take 15 minutes or more for another project with a more sophisticated set of objectives. However, the goal is the same - to challenge the speaker beyond their comfort zone to present in a way they haven’t before. Whether that happens in 2-3 minutes or 15+ minutes, everyone has something to learn in this process.
Table Topics are the second component of the educational portion of a Toastmasters meeting. Here, participants are given an impromptu topic and have 1-2 minutes to speak without preparation on the subject. It is by far the most fun component of a meeting, as topics can be very creative - questions can range from “What is your favourite colour?” to “If you give your two cents, but it’s only a penny for your thoughts, where does the extra penny go?” (seriously, this was asked at a contest I was attending, and I think it was a bit diabolical!). Often, NDG Leader Toastmasters likes to not only engage our current members to participate, but also our guests. Not all guests are keen to try it (which is perfectly fine!), but it’s quite amazing to see how many do. As we see it, it’s a way for our guests to get a feel for what the experience will be like. And people have fun while they are at it!
Evaluations are the final component of the educational session at our meetings. Here, skilled evaluators give feedback on the prepared speeches and Table Topics to the presenters. It takes a lot of practise to get comfortable giving evaluations - providing commentary that is both helpful to the speaker to improve while being positive overall - no feelings should be hurt in the process! I find evaluations the most valuable part of meeting, and personally they are my favourite. It has lots of applications out in the world, where you have to provide feedback at work, with friends and family, or in the community. Thoughtfulness is they key here, and people who take up evaluations have lots to gain from it.
So, why not come and check it out for yourself at one of our meetings? We would love for you to join NDG Leader Toastmasters anytime at one of our meetings on Thursdays 7pm - whether online or in person. We hope to see you then so you can see our educational session in action for yourself!