Zoom Meeting and General Evaluation – 2nd April 2020

By General Evaluator, Neil Pettigrew

What a memorable meeting we had on 2nd April. And how reassuring it is that, in these strange times, we can all stay in touch, still say a few ‘ers and ums’, still get supportive feedback from one another, and still have a few laughs.

I was General Evaluator on the night but, because of technical problems with my sound (still not resolved), my evaluation had to be abandoned. So I present it here in written format instead.

Several of my recommendations will be ‘Zoom-specific’. In other words, recommendations on how we can improve the way we look and sound on-line.

We had two Zoommasters for the on-line meeting.

Zoommaster #1 – David Henson

Once again David made sure that everything in the meeting went smoothly on a technical level. His lighting, background and sound were all good examples of how on-line speaking should be done.

I especially appreciated his suggestion about timing, because sometimes it isn’t easy to work out exactly where the time-keeper is on the Zoom screen. David’s suggestion was that we all need to take control of the timing of our speeches, by having some device in front of us that displays the time.

Zoommaster #2 – David Hampton

David’s sound and lighting were very good. He was especially good at explaining in easy-to-follow instructions how to do things, such as change the way your name is displayed on your Zoom tile.

Recommendation for David Hampton: David left at the end of the formal meeting and some people stayed on to chat. However, his tile was still showing and we weren’t sure if he was still there or not. It might be a good idea to clarify with David Henson what the correct protocol is for a departing the meeting when you are the Zoommaster.

President – Christine Morrell

Our president is so good at presenting on-line that I suspect she is an old hand at it. She spoke confidently and welcomed our guests in a friendly manner. Christine gave a brilliant summary of how we all have to learn new skills, and she coped impressively when told we were losing her audio. She gave a first class introduction to our Toastmaster-of-the-evening Robert Parker, having clearly given it much thought before the meeting.

Recommendation for Christine: On the technical issue – can her sound problems be resolved before the next meeting? 

Toastmaster – Robert Parker

It must be quite a daunting task being Toastmaster of a Zoom meeting but Robert made it look easy. I would like to thank him for getting in touch with me – and perhaps others – before the meeting, offering tips on using Zoom and asking if we had any concerns.

I liked the very positive message he gave about the NHS. He gave enthusiastic introductions for each of the prepared speakers, and he also added numerous humorous comments between each speech.

Recommendations for Robert:

  1. As he realised later on, he had overlooked the 1-minute feedback slot after each speech – but he handled the oversight brilliantly, getting us to do all three feebacks after the final speaker. We had a break after the three speeches, whereas we normally have the break after the three evaluations. Was this planned or an oversight? I’m not sure.   
  2. I believe the 8pm ‘NHS Clap’ is going to be a regular thing from now on. Many of us want to be on our doorsteps at 8pm and therefore I recommend that the Toastmaster re-jigs the agenda as necessary so that we are free to do so. For example, if it is 7.55 and the next item on the agenda is a 7-minute speech, then I suggest that the Table Topics Master be prepared to do a couple of topics, and the Toastmaster postpones the 7-minute speech until we all return from our doorsteps. What do other people think? I noticed that while Arun was delivering his ice-breaker, a number of people sneaked off to their front doors, which must have been disconcerting for Arun – but I must say he didn’t let it phase him!

Timekeeper – Harry Langley

Lateral thinking is what is needed in these unprecedented times, and Harry certainly came up with an excellent bit of improvisation to indicate timings – a green apple, an orange and a red apple! He also explained the role very clearly, and gave precise, thorough timings when asked. A job well done. 

Recommendations for Harry:

  1. Try adjusting the camera position slightly – the bottom of Harry’s head was missing from the shot.
  2. At the start of the meeting his image was a bit dark, but he altered his lighting as the meeting progressed. 

The Speeches

We had three prepared speeches.

We were all impressed with the Icebreaker speech by Arun Vijay, one of our newer members. The title of his speech was ‘How are You Doing?’ and at one point in the speech he asked his audience that question and then invited us all to pause and think quietly for ten seconds about our answer. What a brave technique to use in an icebreaker. 

Our second prepared speaker was Susan Rayner, delivering a speech entitled ‘Summer of ‘73’. This was a very personal, confessional speech about being bullied at school, and she held us all in the palm of her hands as she bravely told her story.

Our third prepared speech, entitled ‘Bridging the Gap’ was delivered by Sue Shaw who told us all about how she had conquered her fear of heights. It was a definite case of ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ and Sue walked away with the vote for best speech of the evening. Congratulations Sue!

Speech Evaluations

Evaluator #1 – David Wilson evaluated Arun Vijay

As we all know, David is a very experienced evaluator and he gave Arun some very supportive praise as well as two thoughtful recommendations.

Recommendation for David: David praised Arun’s hand gestures, but when he demonstrated this, his own hands disappeared out of the sides of the camera view. It’s something we all need to think about in this new medium: if we are going to use gestures, then we need to make sure our arms are still within camera range.

Evaluator #2 – Karen Mefflin evaluated Susan Rayner

Karen’s lighting and sound were both of excellent quality, making it easy to listen to her. She is a very experienced evaluator and as usual had listened carefully to the speech and came up with some thoughtful comments.

Recommendations for Karen:

  1. The camera was placed a bit low, so that we were looking up at Karen. Try to position the camera so that it is level with your face.
  2. I have noticed several times that Karen’s evaluations are short – on this occasion she spoke for only 1 minute and 58 seconds. Speakers deserve to receive evaluations which go the full three minutes. If you struggle to think of things to say, see the document I compiled a couple of years ago listing around thirty aspects of a speech that you can comment on.
Information Compiled by Neil Pettigrew

Evaluator #3 – Caroline Jeffrey evaluated Sue Shaw

I am very impressed by how Caroline, who has only been a member for a couple of months, has jumped into the deep end and taken on her first evaluation. Not only that, but she evaluated one of our most experienced speakers. For a first time, it was surprisingly perceptive, giving praise and recommendations where appropriate. Her lighting and sound were both sharp and clear.

Recommendation for Caroline: For part of the evaluation, Caroline addressed her comments directly to Sue. It is better to address remarks to the whole audience so that we can all benefit from the recommendations. 

Other Roles

Ah Counter – Jenny Taggart

Jenny listened well to everyone’s speeches and gave a thorough report on all our ‘ers and ums’.

Recommendations for Jenny:

  1. At the start, when Jenny explained the role, I would have liked to hear an explanation of WHY we count ‘ers and ums’.  
  2. Jenny’s lighting was over-exposed, meaning we couldn’t see her properly and her head was too low in the frame (sofa too comfortable maybe?)

Grammarian – David Henson

I was impressed with the way David volunteered to take on the role with just a few seconds notice when the Toastmaster asked for someone to step forward.

Recommendation for David: He admitted that being Zoommaster and Grammarian was too much and he regretted volunteering to be Grammarian. He apologised that, as a result, his report was too short.

It would have been better to omit these negatives and just given us the report. I doubt if any of us would have noticed that it was a bit short. Why draw attention to your failings?

Warm-up – Vinu Madhavan

Vinu picked a highly relevant topic.

What new activity are we doing as a result of being stuck at home?

She announced each person’s name clearly so that we all knew when it was our turn and she remembered to include surnames when there was more than one person with the same first name. Her lighting was excellent.

Recommendation for Vinu: Sorry Vinu – I can’t think of one – you’re too good!

Hot Tip – Ben Lopez

What a great tip – go for a walk and practise your speech while you are on the move.

Recommendation for Ben: It looked and sounded like Ben was reading from notes, and as a result his presentation lost some freshness and energy. I bet he could have done it without any notes!

Table Topics Master – Tom Jewers

I loved the way Tom explained WHY we do Table Topics, and how we can benefit from doing them. I enjoyed his topics which were all about being quarantined. He kept his topics short, allowing the speakers the maximum time possible.

Recommendation for Tom: Sorry Tom – I couldn’t think of anything!

Table Topics Evaluator – Richard Green

Very good lighting and sound. Lots of thoughtful praise and recommendations.

Recommendations for Richard:

1) Recommendations were needed for Dave Henson and Margot Glover. 

2) There was some distracting pen waving.

3) If the timing was correct, he only spoke for five minutes when he had seven available.

General comments

Well done to John Vickers for winning best table topic by telling us about his favourite meal in isolation which he said would definitely not be bat stew!

I noticed that many of us dispensed with the usual protocol of starting our speeches with ‘Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and Guests’.  What do people think – should we still stick to this protocol on Zoom?

I am not sure why we went so over time. Was it the 8pm hand clapping? As a result, the table topics session was reduced to one minute per person, which is too short for someone to really develop an idea and grapple with it. I wonder, since we are all already at home, and therefore don’t need to worry about getting home after the meeting, perhaps the meeting could run on longer. That way we could make sure that EVERYONE gets a chance to speak, and the table topics could still be a full two minutes. What do people think? Another fifteen minutes perhaps?

Please leave your comments and feedback below. Thank you.

Note from PR Officer, Deborah Goodman

I would like to thank Neil for writing the blog as I was absent from the meeting. It’s easy for members to get disheartened at this difficult time and struggle to adapt to this new way of meeting and speaking; I have struggled with the stresses of the whole situation myself and I totally understand.

Bromley Speakers is an extremely strong and supportive team (or family as I like to call us) and has rapidly adjusted to this new way of working.

The committee is working exceptionally hard behind the scenes to keep the spirit and momentum of the club up.

Any member who is finding things a bit difficult should not hesitate to speak to either their mentor or another club member or reach out to the committee. We are in this together and we are always here for you.

I look forward to seeing you all at our next meeting on Thursday 16th April. In the meantime, stay safe and stay healthy.

Bromley Speakers Club meets on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of the month, at 7.15 pm. Our meetings are all on-line until the foreseeable future. For more information please email us
vppublicrelations@bromleyspeakers.co.uk

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