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Stepping into the Spotlight: My Experience Competing in the Toastmasters Evaluation Contest

As a member of Sussex Online Speakers, I've always valued the opportunity to refine my public speaking and leadership skills. However, when I decided to participate in this year's (2024) Toastmasters evaluation contest, I knew I was stepping into a new realm of challenge and growth.

The evaluation contest is a unique event within Toastmasters where participants are tasked with providing constructive feedback on a 'test' speech (someone we don't know). It's not just about critiquing; it's about offering insightful observations that help the speaker improve and grow.

Preparing for the contest was a journey in itself. I honed my active listening skills, practised delivering feedback concisely yet effectively, and familiarised myself with the judging evaluation criteria. Mentors and fellow Toastmasters provided invaluable guidance and support, helping me refine my approach and gain confidence in my abilities.

On the day of each contest, I experienced a blend of excitement and nervous anticipation. Stepping onto the stage, I emphasised the importance of staying grounded and fully present. As I attentively listened to the speaker's address, I meticulously jotted down notes on their strengths and potential areas for growth. Later, alongside my fellow contestants, I had five minutes to refine my observations before delivering my evaluation.

When my turn came, I confidently approached the podium, drawing upon my preparation and the supportive atmosphere of the Toastmasters community. Delivering my evaluation, I aimed to strike a balance between encouragement and constructive criticism, highlighting the speaker's strengths while offering actionable suggestions for growth.

I had the privilege of winning my club contest, then advancing to the area contest and ultimately to the divisional contest, where I secured third place. Although this marks the end of my journey for this year, as only the first-placed contestant proceeds to the regional final in Bristol on May 5th, I am proud of my achievements, especially considering this was my first attempt.

Participating in the evaluation contest was a transformative experience. It challenged me to think critically, communicate effectively, and provide value to others through feedback. Moreover, it reinforced the ethos of continuous improvement that is central to Toastmasters.

Win or lose, the true reward was the growth and learning that came from the experience. Competing in the evaluation contest pushed me out of my comfort zone, helping me develop invaluable skills within Toastmasters and beyond. It reminded me of the power of community, support, and the journey of self-improvement that we embark on together as Toastmasters.

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