Education Blog

Feedback is a Gift for the Whole Body

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Carlos Vby Carlos Velázquez, ACS, CLB

“Feedback is a gift,” I was reminded on many occasions by the leadership team of the American Red Cross.  For many years I was a volunteer with the national headquarters as part of the cadre of master trainers for the HIV/AIDS Latino prevention initiative.  The training was challenging.  Very few volunteers passed the course.  A key component of the curriculum was the evaluation session for each potential certified instructor.

During the course of the evaluation session we were coached on how to listen with the whole body.  We were to take in information as a gift.  We were not to respond or rebut to any feedback.  We had to listen and learn how to improve our skills and to understand the perspective of what our audience might perceive.  Audience perception is everything.

During our evaluation sessions at Toastmasters we are reminded that our speeches need to be audience-centered and that their perception on what we deliver is everything.   This is important from the way we engage an audience through eye contact, rhetorical questions, or even the word choice of our stories.   An evaluator for Toastmasters provides feedback through a critical lens that allows us to see how we are coming across non-verbally and the effectiveness of our words.

A gift should not be re-gifted.  That is poor taste.  A gift should not be returned.  It can teach.  A gift should not go without acknowledgement, even if you don’t like it.  A gift is an opportunity for speakers to learn about how they are being perceived by an audience; thus, feedback should be seen as an opportunity to learn, reflect, and grow.  We don’t have to agree with all the feedback but it is a good practice to return to comments within in 24 hours to see if a fresh read of our notes allows us to see things differently.  This is a part of hearing feedback with the whole body.

Good Advice to Build our Club

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Carlos VBy Carlos Velázquez
President, Crystal City Evening Toastmasters

Our District Governor, Ralph Jones, recently shared some insights with us that provide some good ideas for our officers as the transition takes place for Crystal City Evening Toastmasters for a new program year.  We should abide by some guidelines that we should encourage in all our members.  The first is to participate.  Members should:

  • Attend club meetings regularly. Regular attendance helps rapidly conquer fears, sharpen speaking skills, and bolster leadership proficiency.

  • Prepare speech projects carefully. Toastmasters’ educational program builds skills through assignments. An alternate, personal curriculum defeats the purpose of measuring progress against a proven method.

  • Prepare and fulfill meeting assignments. Ill-prepared members miss the opportunity to learn and cheat fellow members out of what they may learn from the member’s contribution.

The second recommendation is to foster interaction.  A welcoming climate and culture make all the difference for our guests and members:

  • Provide helpful, constructive evaluations. Every Toastmaster deserves supportive feedback with advice for improving speaking and leadership efforts.

  • Promote a positive, friendly environment by arriving early to mingle and get to know members. Greet everyone and introduce yourself to guests.

  • Serve as an officer. Club meetings require teamwork and planning. Without these things the club would suffer.

  • Be respectful and courteous to everyone. Everyone deserves encouragement, support, and acknowledgment regardless of membership status or achievement level.

The last piece of advice is about quality.  We should strive to make our club one that has the needs of the members in mind and follows the values of Toastmasters International.  As a club we should encourage members to:

  • Bring guests. Give more people the benefits of Toastmasters’ program and introduce new personalities and ideas to the club.

  • Follow guidelines and rules. Noncompliance diminishes the meaning and value of awards and achievements for yourself and others.

  • Observe ethical standards. Ethics – in word and action – are just as important a part of the Toastmasters learning program as is speaking and leadership training.

Is Fear of Failure an Obstacle to Your Success?

Thursday, January 9th, 2014
By Stacy Langsdale

When I was in college, I enjoyed ice skating, but a friend of mine was really dedicated to it, and practiced on a regular basis.  He told me this story that really stuck with me because it is an important life lesson.

Everyday he practiced on the rink, carefully attempting new moves like jumps and turns.  Another girl practiced at the same time.  Day after day, she also attempted to master new moves – tried, and fell, got up, tried again.  She fell again and again during her entire practice.  One day, my friend came up to her and said he’d noticed her practicing for weeks, and asked her how she could subject herself to falling – of failing – again and again.  How could she get up and try again each time?   Her response was that she also had noticed him on the ice, but could see that his fear of falling was really holding him back.  That to advance, he will have to not let his fear of falling get in the way of skating.  That day was a big turning point for him – he was able to let go of his fears and his skills really took off.

This applies perfectly to Toastmasters and public speaking.  It is easy to let our fears hold us back, but the only way to succeed is to get up there and just do it.  Failure is a necessary part of the road to success.  No speech is perfect.  But, we have to get up there and do it anyway if we are ever going to have the chance to succeed.

I have a videotape of my senior capstone presentation from college.  Boy, it is the most painful thing I’ve ever seen.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I had at least three crutch words for every real word.  But, I pushed through and finished my presentation.  Many years of speeches later, I still battle my stubborn “um’s” but they are more under control and I’ve enjoyed delivering many speeches anyway.

Perhaps my New Year’s Resolution Challenge will be to fight back harder at those crutch words.  But, please excuse a few “failures” along the way – I’m on the road to success!