Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Backwards meetings.

In December 1999, Ledeema suggested backwards meeting or start in the middle and work both ways in response to a request for ideas on creative approaches to meetings in the thread First time toastmaster.

Rick defined it as
Start with awarding best speaker, then evaluations, ... finish with an overview of the meeting, but warned this tends to be a love it or hate it type of meeting. We had a backwards meeting in my past club. The toastmaster for the day just did it unannounced. Our VP-Ed loved it and she scheduled a backwards meeting a couple months later. The toastmaster for that day hated that format, and he did something different.

Joy had participated in two or three backwards meetings. I noticed that they work particularly well if the speakers are fairly experienced speakers, and the evaluators have evaluated these speakers previously. It is amazing how accurate an evaluation can be in this sort of case.

Les went to one of these backward meetings a couple of years back and it seemed like a 'jolly jape' for the first 5 minutes after which the joke started wearing a bit thin.
My main concern, however, was for the guests who were not really a party to this 'in' joke which does rather depend on the audience knowing how a normal meeting operates.

Eric had heard about backwards meetings for years, but it's only in the past month that I actually participated in one. I was an evaluator, so I had to give a speaker her evaluation before she gave her speech. I cheated a bit, I gave her oral evaluation on how I hoped she'd fare, but didn't write anything in her manual until she was giving her speech.

It did seem rather odd and contrived in a way. Not only did the evaluators come before the speakers, but so did the timers report. As well, when introductions were made, they were done after the part being introduced e.g. here's Joe to give his speech, and Jill gets up to evaluate Bob who hasn't spoken yet. It was at times very funny; I remember one of the evaluators (who didn't know what the speaker was going to be talking about) saying how enjoyed her unusual use of a chair as a prop, then when the speaker was up we were all watching to see if and how she would incorporate this into her presentation.

There were no guests that day, but one new member who was very confused as she didn't know how we did things normally.

In August 2001, Gern responded to the thread Backwards Meeting with the feeling this type of meeting has the potential to be great in the right circumstances. For example, if someone was giving the advanced manual 'impromptu speech', a "pre-"evaluation could set the stage for the topic. For more regular manual projects or beginning speakers, I believe we owe the speakers proper evaluations.

1. We did most of the meeting backwards. OK in concept.

2. The evaluators went before the speakers. Of course there was no relation between the evaluation and speech. Big drawback.

3. We didn't vote for speaker, evaluator, or table topics.

4. Table topic speakers spoke on any topic and the topic master would then develop the topic introduction. Worked pretty well.

5. We started promoting this backwards meeting about 5 weeks before the actual date. Everyone knew what would take place, and one of our most experienced members was the toastmaster. Doing portions of the meeting backwards or out of order will work if the major role players know what's going on. Doing a whole meeting should be known by everyone. Guests should also be informed this is not a regular meeting.

David was against the idea. It's a poor substitute for a well planned/organized meeting and should be avoided. This is especially true for a club that is new, small, and trying to build its membership. Every meeting should be a demonstration of what the club can do for any guest who chooses to become a member. It's unlikely that this will happen in a backwards meeting with inexperienced Toastmasters.

Ken thought that manual speeches should have shadow evaluators to give post speech evaluations at end of meeting.

Since the chair's concluding remarks will be at the beginning of the meeting the chair can enlighten the guests before they are left completely in the dark.

We even had one speaker turn their back on the audience while delivering their speech!

For Joy it works best if the evaluators have heard the speakers several times. For instance, say you are evaluating Joe, who has a tendency to put his hands in his pockets when he speaks. In your evaluation you could remark on the fact that he managed to keep his hands out of his pockets for most of the speech. It might help him remember to do just that.

Some people also have favorite phrases that they use repeatedly. An evaluator could mention that. Naturally, the speakers would be given true written evaluations as well.

The Table Topics Master could start by doing a "wrap-up", indicating the theme of the meeting. In fact, at some clubs the TT Master does this, mentioning briefly what each speaker talked about. If he/she does this, that would give the speakers an indication of which way to go, and make it fairly simple for the TT Master to give the "question" after the person has spoken.

I agree that this shouldn't be done very often, but it can make a fun change.

In October 2000, Ian had heard about a Back-to-Front Meeting and was horrified when my club decided to have one, but it was a lot of fun! The GE remarked how unusual it was that the TTE had been lying on the floor for part of his he did! He was disappointed by how boring my Table Topic had I just droned on and on until I was heckled off.

The evaluations of the manual speeches were ingenious introductions; the introductions were ingenious evaluations!

At 8:15am our Chairman welcomed us to the meeting, and we all left.

Don't try it more than once a year.

Carmen had one, it was a hoot. Only caveat, we told the club members that this should not be a meeting to meet your speaking goals or anything. It was to be fun, plain and simple.

Sburgin had a GREAT meeting. To top it off, the Toastmaster of the Day had recorded several "golden oldies" backwards and there was a contest to see who identified the most correctly. The winner received a $20 gift certificate from a local music shop. BTW, we had one member who got 17 out of 20 (the next best was 9 out of 20).

Susan guesses they are OK once in a very long while, for the Clubs that want to do them. They are not my cup of tea. But that's my personal preference, and in my Club I get to voice it. In other peoples' Clubs, they get to voice theirs!

Moira personally loathes back-to-front meetings, but I don't think they negate visitors or prevent assignments from being done. The only clubs I have ever visited which have had them have been clubs with vibrant meeting programmes.

Ilena did a backwards meeting awhile ago at our club and had a wonderful time! While the individuals with assigned roles were left to their own as to just *how* backwards they wanted to get, the suggestions for possibilities put before our club ahead of time included:

  • As a GE you are to evaluate the meeting overall and the evaluators, so consider who the TM is and the evaluators and the speakers...and think of things that would be 'likely' to occur with those individuals. I would *also* recommend written comments that might be helpful for things that really did happen to share after the meeting really is over.
  • Evaluating the meeting/speech making particular points you thought might happen (or that *could* happen), after which the members doing the balance of the meeting might try to make those things happen. I.e., an evaluator evaluating a speech that hadn't happened might comment that the speaker had done a wonderful job using a particular gesture or phrase-the speaker could then try to include that in their speech. A lot of this was done with great success. If an evaluator commented that their target speaker had used three 'um's they would try to work them in.
  • Reversing the timing light sequence to go red first and then yellow and then green (I wanted to do this, and it would have involved just removing the cover of the electronic timer and turning it upside down, but it was deemed too confusing)
  • Speakers were allowed to present their conclusion first and then do the body and the intro last (but none actually did). They were also told they could do their entire speech backwards (by sentence) or even do the individual sentences backwards. No one did that either; personally I think that would have been too confusing to the audience and the point of the speech would have been lost.
  • People can wear clothing backwards (if they dare!) but facing with one's back to the audience is something to be discouraged IMO.
  • Speakers were 'called up' with 'please take a minute to write your comments for (speaker's name) and introduced after they were done speaking
  • The lexicographer noted who had used the word of the day at the beginning of the meeting (when normally they'd be introducing what the word *was*). I don't remember if they did anything odd with the word itself, but palindrome is a good word of the day for a backwards meeting. (Phrases like 'Madam I'm adam' are palindromes; they are the same backwards and forwards.)
  • People walked backwards to and from the front of the room.
  • The meeting was opened by 'closing' it; the normal 'closing remarks' about putting our chairs back were given at the beginning of the meeting; the president 'opened' the meeting with the business meeting at the end of the evening.

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