Building a Better Sandwich

New research shows that the traditional Toastmasters sandwich evaluation method, as it is most often implemented, needs a makeover.

In the book, “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop (What Machines Teach Us about Human Relationships)” authors Clifford Nass and Corina Yen
present “Counterintuitive insights about building successful relationships-based on research into human-computer interaction.” Nass’s research shows: “Mixing criticism into praise – a popular tactic for managers – is a destructive method of evaluation.”

Don’t panic! The Toastmasters evaluation sandwhich method of ‘praise – suggest – praise’ still works. To be most effective, it just needs a bit of an emphasis shift.

What we do now:

  1. Some praise and specific examples of what the evaluator liked
  2. Then a suggestion for improvement and
  3. finally some encouragement or another positive comment.

Unfortunately that is an ineffective way to communicate the suggestions and praise.

What works:

  1. A single, specific positive praising.
  2. The the suggestion(s) then
  3. as much praise (again, specific and believable) as you have time for

Why it works best: Several aspects of how we listen and what we remember work together to make the new sandwich “taste better” and be “more (ful)filling”.

  1. What we hear last we remember most – and most strongly. Therefore lather on the specific praise and encouragement AFTER the suggestion (or criticism.)
  2. We remember criticism (or perceived criticism – even if it is portrayed as suggestion) no matter if it is early in the feedback. Putting it towards the front won’t make the evaluatee forget it!

That basically means: put the good stuff at the end, and put most of it there. It will be remembered most if it is AFTER the suggestions/criticism.

Of course, the research shows what we all know already: Specific, concrete suggestions work best. The same goes for praising. Be specific, saying “you are good” is far less effective than saying what it is, specifically, that you liked.

It’s not my theory, it’s the advice of communications experts after studying the effectiveness of various evaluation/feedback approaches.

Will you adapt to new expert advice and remake your sandwich?

Website of the month – 2010-August Toastmasters Club Website for the Months for 2010-August … And the award goes to

Voice of Burtonsville Toastmasters club!

This is a freetoasthost site and come with the default navigation, which is normally easy to use.
Reviewing a freetoasthost is quite different than reviewing a free-form Toastmasters club website.

Here are some comments and suggestions about this great club website.

One of the best things is that the default home page is not used.

It might be good to move the “About Us” link higher in the menu. On the About Us page itself: the paragraphs are laid out more like citations than text with the first line indented. I don’t see any benefit to that. The centering looks a bit off on the top 2 items.

From the Membership Information page, the link to “visit a meeting’ goes to the directions page. It would be better if the destination page included meeting time and frequency.

The link to the District 36 website takes the browser away from your website – it would be better to open a new tab/window so the user stays on your site. This is the same for several external links, check ALL links in the site for this.

The page “Why Should I Join the Voice of Burtonsville?” had a stern feel to me. It is not as upbeat and welcoming as other parts of the site. Perhaps a friendly image and some statement about ‘going at your own pace’ might soften it.

The “Moments of Enjoyment …” page is pretty bare and could use a better layout. If you only have 1 statement and 2 links, the page needs to be laid out with some images to make it appear more interesting. Perhaps a thumbnail from each the items linked to.

On “Meet our members” it might be better to remove empty listings than to just list a name “no photo available”

Club news forum is a great idea, interactive and with meeting notes. It seems that there have been no updates since June, that is a concern, and may be a concern to prospective guests.

The link to Area 5 is a great idea. I checked the other clubs and none for them has a reciprocal link – that might be a good thing to check into with those clubs. Also, the upcoming speech contest could be highlighted.

Overall, I like this freetoasthost website and congratulate Burtonsville Toastmasters on their efforts.


Comparing the New “new CL” to the old “new CL”

<– Rev 5/2010 / Rev 2006 …

As usual, CL evaluators are directed to “read the project carefully before the meeting”. The fact is, unless you have a rev: 5/2010 CL manual you will be seeing the evaluation questions for each role for the first time when someone hands you a new CL manual.

How are you handling getting all in your club ready to be effective CL evaluators?

What I mean is, how are you handling this?
Many older members may have only used the older CL manual (Revision: 2006) and may have only seen it as evaluator and never owned it and read it because they did an “Old CL”

Do you NEED to bother to do anything?

The main changes apparent to me in content of the 5/2010 Cl manual:

1. Reduction of the introduction text for each project. Well, it take less time to read the project now! Some project introductions have been reduced by as much as 80%.

2. Elimination of the “Practice In Your Club” section in every project which had that section in Revision: 2006 (another change which that makes reading the project carefully” take less time)

3. Evaluation/Feedback format:
Change to a set of three to four questions for a role which are scored by circling 1,2 or 3 ( 1=Needs Work, 2=Average and 3=Outstanding) followed by 1-2 questions in small italic font to be answered by essay.
These 1-2-3 score questions and essay questions are often significantly different from the Revision 2006 CL manual. Some are improved. Some are big improvements from Revision: 2006

4. A much better and better positioned tracking sheet (near the front of the manual)
17 minutes ago

Toastmasters Website of the Month: July 2010

Um Er You Know presents the Toastmasters Club Website of the Month award for 2010-July to ….

This is a quality website for a quality club. The site deserves this award because it has some great examples of how to do things right. Below are some comments and suggestions for consideration to make the site even better – at least better in my opinion! Please feel free to comment below ….

***** Good stuff: I like the organization and layout of the site, the navigation is easy to find and use and is consistent throughout the site.

– Homepage link: “to learn more about Toastmasters International, click here” – the “click here” link directs to a different website. You might want to have this link open a new window/tab so that users do not leave your site. The same is true for the “Club Status” link in the navigation menu.

– Images: More images throughout the site would make the site more appealing. Best would be authorized images of members of your club “in action.”

– Inconsistent type size: On your sample agenda page, the first section ( President 7:00) is a smaller font size than the rest.

When I mouseover the menu buttons, the white font on blue background is barely visible, a darker color for mouseover would be better.

🙁 🙁 Broken Links:
– On the Officers list page the names are links, but nothing happens when they are clicked on. Either make the links work in all browsers or removed the link formatting.
– On the Gallery the first link (in 2009) goes to a page which no longer exists

**** Usability
— For the members area, it would be better to have a regular web page to log in (rather than a little pop-up window) because when I’m unable to log in (click cancel), it takes me to a “page not found”. Same with the Videos link – but this is more important since people without a login may try “Videos” and get trapped.

**** Readability/Accessibility (14/15) –Your “Guests” page is a little disorganized. Perhaps adding details about visiting, proving “prospective members” with the application, etc. would be good. Very helpful would be a separate FAQ page for all of the answers to other questions.

*** Appearance/delivery
– Freshness issues – The top banner looks like it was made with a simple paint program. You could get a graphic designer to make a snappy one for $5 on an outsourcing website and make it look more professional/attractive.
– Originality – This website looks pretty standard and straightforward. It’s great in that it is easy to navigate and use, but by adding a few images and perhaps a subtle background style it could be made more visually provocative and appealing.

***** I like that the site uses language which makes it feel very friendly and easy to read. The grammar and spelling looks great.

**** Overall a well designed, easy to use website. Could be a bit more “spicy/jazzy” and what it does it does well.

Nominate your club website or a club website you like for the next Toastmaster Club Website of the Month!

Other Winners:

Easy (50%) Fix your ums: stop saying theee …

Some thoughts on filler words – after reading what other people had to say – and talking to my wife.

Filler words, aka pause fillers, crutch words, clutch words and even vampire words can be tolerated, genderly better understood and – fairly easily – reduced by half.

  • Women have been accused of using “you know” and “like” much more often than men. It seems true to me. Stephen M. Croucher in his paper: Like, You Know What I’m Saying: A Study of Discourse Marker Frequency in Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speaking contends that the reason is cultural. He is right about that. then he goes on to suggest that it is related to the “Valley Girl” talk we learned in “Fast Times at Riddgemont High” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I think he misses the uh- boat here.
    Women tend to look for collaboration more than men and choose the pause fillers “you know” and “like” often as part of their speech /communication for the goal of community rather than as a crutch. You know?

  • Stop saying “theee” when you mean “the”.
    Since ‘um’,’em’,’er’,’uh’ and ‘ah’ all begin with a vowel, we end up saying “theee, uh, book” when we mean “the book
    Hmmm, so we know ‘theee’ um/uh/er is coming!
    If we were going to say “the” book, we wouldn’t start with ‘theee’ (the with a long ‘e’).
    My modest proposal is to drop the “theee” form of ‘the’ from your speech: if you never say “theee” it becomes pretty hard to say “theee um”. Of course now you will have to insert an adjective every time you talk about “the” (adjective) elephant 🙁

  • I read the book “Um” by Michael Erhard. It is well written and a bit of fun. It left me just a tad disappointed – I wanted more science.

    check this out

2 heads are better than one …


Even if they are both YOUR head?

It’s time for Toastmasters Club Officer Training (COT) again – does that make you 🙂 or 🙁 ?

Many people need to be dragged to this, especially veterans – too bad, they can often add a lot to the discussions – especially in Phase I training.

But what about people who are officers for the first time or holding a specific office for the first time. Of course, “we” STRONGLY recommend that they attend club officer training, and most do – mainly because they are trying to help get that DCP point for 4 officers trained.

Here’s a thought, if one COT session is a GREAT idea for all ‘new’ officers, how great is attending 2 (or more) COT sessions?

If you are a new club officer, new to your role, don’t stop at one! Plan to attend at least 2 COT sessions in Phase one – an extra couple hours now and you may get a head/jump start that will pay off for the rest of the year!

What you might get: cheap edibles, great networking opportunities, and a chance to rethink what you just thought (learned) about 🙂

Club Officer Trainer? Time to “RTFM” …

It’s almost time for the first round of Toastmasters Phase I Club Officer Training (COT) – and here is a call for Trainers to “RTFM” (Read The FINE Manual 🙂

If you are attending training you will hear most trainers say, “Make sure you read the ‘When You Are Vice President Membership manual” (for example). That is great. In fact these manuals change every year.

I wonder how many COT trainers download the freely available manuals ahead of time (They are usually mailed out to clubs in late May.)

Many trainers like to train using their “vast experience” – that is GREAT – but they do need to be informed on what Toastmasters International is telling the officers in the manual – this year. These manuals in fact change most years.

The 2010 editions are available from links of the officer pages at (go to the specific office and look for the manual link at the bottom of that page)

When you get an email from District or Division officers telling you about upcoming COT – email them back and say “Thanks!” and add – “please ensure that the trainers have reviewed the new “When You Are… ” officer manuals before finalizing their training plan …”

You will be helping the trainers and EVERYONE they train!

Competent/Advanced Evaluator Track proposal

Anyone who is a Toastmaster surely values effective evaluations and excellent feedback. I propose the development of the “Competent Evaluator” track. TI is missing a formal education and recognition program for development of evaluation and feedback.

Please join in let’s get TI to add this worthwhile program. We need your help to brainstorm and design the program: This has evolved into a 2 part track, “Competent Evaluator” and “Advanced Evaluator”.

Next steps include
Where does it apply?

Performance Appraisals
Conflict Resolution

1. Drafting outlines of materials for the manuals. The manuals need to have evaluation/feedback forms for the evaluator, lots of advice, best practices, hints, tips and resources.

We need to explain how these processes will benefit people beyond “Toastmaster” activities and into their lives and professional careers.

2. Draft requirements for each track – subject to revision.

Proposed Competent Evaluator requirements:
– have completed CC
– Evaluate 10 CC manual speeches (no more than 3 for any speech project type and must include a speech project #9 or #10 evaluation)
– Evaluate an educational module presentation
– Present “Evaluate to Motivate”
– Serve as General Evaluator 3 times or more

Advanced Evaluator requirements: – subject to revision.
– have completed Competent Evaluator
– have evaluated an additional 3 speeches outside home club
– have evaluated 2 advanced manual speeches
– have presented “the art of effective evaluation”
– Serve as General Evaluator at 2 outside clubs
– Evaluate at least one activity for each of the 10 CL projects


What I Don’t Like about BSS 278

I disagree with several parts of Better Speaker Series (BSS) 278 “Preparation and Practice.” Some of it is good (there is the positive remark 🙂 but I find the module to be of less value than most other BSS modules.

Some of it I think is silly, some wrong, some short sighted and I see a lot of questions without answers that seem to miss the mark. The module seems to concentrate on speaking outside of Toastmasters where the speaker is unfamiliar with the venue and audience. It seems to have less value to the POT – and POTs are most of the audience and most will never make many speeches outside the club environment. I think materials focused on how to prepare and rehearse for speeches IN the club environment/club contest setting would be of more benefit to most Toastmasters attending this presentation.

When I present it, I change it almost completely from the provided script.

Am I bad? Wrong?
Do you like module 278 “Preparation and Practice”?
What would you change to make it better?

1. Page 6: I don’t like the analogy to professional marathon running – it really does not seem to “fit” to me. Realistically, 90+% of people who run a marathon – not counting professional marathoners – do not “study the course and consider the terrain months in advance”. And I think it is overstated fro the pros.

2. Page 7: “.., if a majority of your audience members are over the age of fifty,
…using a microphone will help keep you in control”
(tacky? What about teens who have blaring iPods permanently attached to their heads?)

3. Page 8 “… you’ve probably found that relentless practice tends to be a frustrating experience, even to the point of undermining your presentation.”
(I think this is a silly claim – I know almost no toastmasters who practice relentlessly to the point of frustration, but maybe it’s just me – almost everyone I know, including me, could use a little more “smart” practice but not restraint from “relentless practice” )

4. Page 9: “If outside opinions are not available, record your speech on audio or videotape and play it back for self evaluation.”
(only if ???, I think mirror practice, audio and video taping are incredibly powerful techniques for practice and improvement. I would recommend them separately and strongly rather than as a fall back if your – perhaps non-expert in feedback and evaluation – family and friends are not available. What about work or professional/ industry colleagues? What about a coach/mentor?)

Page 10: “If you suffer from a dry mouth, try a cup of herbal tea with honey and lemon, … or fruit juice.”

(there are lots of better suggestions than this for dry mouth. And even perhaps WAY more important to consider – a trip to the restroom a few minutes before you go on stage?
Other Extras:
-Voice/throat warm up
-Appearance check by yourself in a mirror or by a buddy
-Breathing techniques to energize or relax

What is your take on 278? Is it excellent?
Posted 7 days ago | Delete discussion