What Happens at an Aspire Meeting?
Firstly the Toastmaster, who is the member rostered to run the meeting, is introduced. We then go into a word game to warm up. Often it is a story one sentence at a time, where we work around the room with each member adding one sentence, trying to make a coherent story. This always generates a lot of laughs with people taking the story in unexpected directions. Visitors are welcome to participate but can pass it if they wish.
Next we have a session of Table Topics, where members are asked to speak for a minute, or a little over, on a topic without notice. This develops our ability to quickly formulate a response to an unexpected question and deliver it with confidence. Visitors are able to participate in this session but are under no pressure to do so.
Following that we have several prepared speeches, delivered by members who have had about two weeks to prepare. The speeches are usually about seven minutes long and are from one of the Toastmasters communicator manuals. Sometimes speeches are a little longer, presented by members working towards the advanced leadership program.
Then we have a 15 minute break, with tea/coffee/juice/nibbles. This a nice break but it is much more than that: It is a chance to chat with other members about their experiences in making presentations, about what they have learnt, mistakes they have made and what they have found effective.
The meeting then resumes with speech presenters given feedback on their speeches. This is from members who have been rostered for the task. The feedback highlights areas where the speaker did well or where they have made a noticeable improvement. It also offers one or two suggestions on how the speaker might improve for their next presentation. Toastmasters culture is strongly directed towards making feedback sensitive to the speaker’s needs. We have a number of publications to assist in this and there is also an annual feedback contest, which highlights good techniques in presenting encouraging and effective feedback.
Next there is a timing report from a member who has been rostered to time presentations. One of the skills we learn at Toastmasters is the ability to judge the timing of our presentations and the timing report is critical in developing this skill.
The final item is the General Evaluation, from an experienced member who has been rostered for the task. Here all participants are given feedback if they have not previously received it, including those giving feedback to speakers.