例会への参加意識 － 「全ての基本は例会にある」
私がこの7年間のトーストマスターズ人生の中で常に心がけできた事は、「全ての基本は例会にある」ということです。コンテストで優勝す るための特別な練習、コンテストで優勝するための特別なテクニック、そういったものがあるのだろうか？と悩んだ時期もありましたが、自分なりに辿り着いた 結論は、「全ての基本は例会にある」ということでした。例会での役割として論評を割当てていただいた際には、全力でその役割に取り組み、スピーカーに対し ては自分がスピーチを通じて感じることのできた「感動や聴衆との一体感」を是非とも感じていただきたいという思いから、常に「愛情を持って論評を行う」ことを心掛けてきたつもりでした。今思えば、結果としてこの心掛けが正しかったのかな？と感じています。論評を通してスピーカーの人生の一部に触れることで自分自身も人間として成長し、更にはスピーカーも自分の論評を通したフィードバックで成長していただく、このWin-Winの関係を築くことのできるシ ステムにこそ、トーストマスターズの例会のエッセンスと醍醐味があるのだと私は思っています。質の高い例会を行えるための準備、例会を通じて人間として更に成長したいと思う参加意識の中にこそ、私はコンテストにおいて優勝する秘訣が潜んでいるように思えてなりません。
論評における時間管理について － 「一分間スピーチが基本！」
It all started with a slice of pizza. After club meetings, we often go to a nearby Italian restaurant for an informal second round. The evening that our club announced plans for the evaluation contest I joined everyone at the restaurant.
I had a busy morning the following day, so I wasn’t planning on eating. My fellow members encouraged me to stay for a slice of pizza. We were talking about who would enter the evaluation contest. Honestly, I didn’t intend to enter. My main motivation has been mostly giving speeches in Japanese. But my fellow members urged me to reconsider while I nibbled on the slice of pizza. The pizza was delicious and their words were encouraging. By my last bite, I had joined the contest.
How did you practice to improve your evaluation skills?
For the in-house contest, I didn’t have much of a plan, except that I would listen carefully, take lots of notes, and share my honest thoughts. But I did make one decision in advance. I resisted using the classic format — “3 good points and 2 areas for improvement.” That approach is very useful for club meetings, but I thought it might sound too familiar, too standard for the competition. So for the in-house and area contests, I tried a more subtle approach. I gave my comments and suggestions with a conversational, relaxed structure.
The Area 31/32 contests and Division C contests were held on the same day, three hours apart. Looking back, participating in two contests on the same day was a pivotal learning experience for me. During the time between the area and division contests, I could reflect on my style and make immediate changes. When the area contest finished, I felt my conversational approach wasn’t working. After reviewing the comments of audience members, I became further convinced that my subtle style would not be successful in the Division C contest.
So I went back to the drawing board, as we say in America. I needed a new approach. I knew that I must give listeners more structure in my evaluation. A good structure would focus my evaluation and maintain listeners’ attention. So I spent some time thinking about what to do. I thought about the core elements of a good speech. I decided that I would organize my evaluation around those core elements: content, delivery and message.
In the Division C contest, I tried to write everything down from the test speech. In addition, when I heard or saw something that fit into my three core elements, I made a note of it. By the end of the test speech, I had a rough transcript of the speech along with ideas for my evaluation divided into my three elements.
In the five minutes of preparation time, I circled key expressions and drew lines to my talking points. I also assigned a single keyword for each of my talking points to make them easier to remember. I repeated my categories and keywords in my head over and over, so I wouldn’t forget my talking points when I handed in my notes.
As I stood outside waiting for my turn, I reminded myself that you only get one chance. So you’ve got to bring everything you’ve got. You cannot hold back. The results don’t matter. Just go out and give your best speech. And that’s what I tried to do.
What are the Evaluation secrets you learned out of your experiences?
I learned a lot of lessons along the way to the final contest, all of which I am happy to share. Hopefully some of these insights are new or useful to others.
1. Organize, then Evaluate.
Organizing your evaluation structure before the speech is key. If your structure is easy to hear, you increase the chances of being universally understood. For example, organizing my evaluations around what I think are the three parts of a good speech (content, delivery and message) helped me stay focused in my evaluation. If I were evaluating storytelling, I would use a different format, such as the parts of a good story: setup, characters (and dialogue), climax and resolution. Having a good structure keeps you on track and guides your listeners through your evaluation.
2. Be Aware of the Moment
In my evaluations, I tried to see the test speech through the speaker’s eyes. How did they approach their speech? Did they choose the topic to fit the moment? Did they challenge themselves in their topic choice?
In the Division C contest, the speaker’s topic was the use of walking during a speech. I felt that he understood the moment—that he was delivering a speech to a large group of fellow Toastmasters—and wrote a speech aligned to their interests. So I highlighted it in my evaluation. In the District 76 contest, the speaker was talking about the recovery in Tohoku, a topic that probably was painful to share in front of a large audience. I thought that was courageous, so I highlighted that. For me, seeing the speech from the speaker’s point of view is an important part of an evaluation. It gives you a chance to connect with them as a fellow speaker in addition to your role as evaluator.
3. Go paperless.
Before the Division contest, I decided that I didn’t want to refer to notes when giving my evaluation. There is nothing wrong with referring to notes. But for a competition, I thought going paperless, so to speak, was advantageous for two reasons. One, I thought notes would waste valuable time and eye contact. Two, I thought speaking without notes would project confidence. Going paperless meant I had to come up with a way to easily remember my speech. First, I had my organization—content, deliver and message—to provide structure. But I knew that wouldn’t be enough. So, next, after I wrote my talking points, I assigned a keyword to each point. The keywords served as signposts to my audience and as reminders to me.
For example, in the Division C contest, I had “research” as a signpost under my Content category.
By remembering the word “research,” I could recall my full comment. With keywords for each important point, I was able to remember my evaluation. And since I didn’t interrupt my speech by looking at my notes, I think I was able to better connect with my audience. I didn’t have to focus my eyes on the page and then back on the audience.
4. Use it or Lose It
We receive feedback all the time in Toastmasters. I recommend not just reading the comments, but putting them into action. I read every comment at each stage of the competition twice. I also asked audience members for their thoughts and listened carefully to them. The comments of my fellow Toastmasters helped me immeasurably.
For example, I received feedback in the area contest that I did not focus on delivery very much. Absolutely true, I thought. That comment helped me rethink my approach for the Division and District contests. After the area contest, one of my club members said my speech could barely be heard from the back of the room (I had declined the pin microphone for that round because I preferred the sound of a natural voice). After hearing this comment, I changed my mind. I wore the pin microphone in the Division contest later that day.
The above point is probably one that every Toastmaster already knows and follows, but I just want to reinforce it with my experience. It really does work.
5. Be Yourself
The morning of the District 76 contest I spent a great deal of time on deciding what to wear. At first, I thought that I should wear a suit, given the magnitude of the event. I have several nice vintage suits that I could wear. But I hesitated. I don’t wear suits that often and I don’t think suits reflect my personality. I thought of the late Steve Jobs and his famous black turtleneck and jeans. His presentations felt relaxed, perhaps, because he felt relaxed. Reminded by that, I chose to wear my favorite tie, shirt, and sweater combination with my best blue jeans. I was not the best dressed, but I was comfortable. I think this feeling of comfort allowed me to be relaxed and do my best.
Who do you want to appreciate?
I have a lot of people to thank. First, I want to thank the organizers of the contests at each level. They worked so hard for other people to enjoy the spotlight. Such kindness is the heart of Toastmasters. Also, I’d like to thank the audience whose attendance made the event powerful, particularly those who left me comments. Third, I’d like to thank my colleague TM Osawa from Kanto Toastmasters for first inviting me to their meeting. I wouldn’t be in Toastmasters without her introduction. Most of all, I’d like to thank the members of Tokyo International Toastmasters for their support and encouragement. I am surrounded by a group of exceptional people every other Wednesday. They inspire me every meeting. It takes a great team to win anything. I am part of a great team. I’d especially like to thank those members who came to the contests. Seeing their friendly faces really calmed my nerves. Finally, I’d like to thank my club president, TM Minami, for the pizza. It’s truly a slice of history (so to speak). Actually lastly, I want to thank my wife and son. They sacrifice some of our time together so that I can attend TM meetings and events