ellow Toastmasters, if you have ever felt that your regular meetings have gotten a little stale (I know that is hard at a Toastmaster meeting) or that you wanted to stretch outside of your comfort zone? You may want to consider a backwards meeting.
On October 18th, Titan Toastmasters hosted a backwards meeting. It was funny, it was a stretch, and it demonstrated the talent and commitment inherent in a Toastmaster. This was my 3rd backward meeting in three years. For the previous meetings we had a remarkable set of last minute excuses not to participate. On the 18th we had a record crowd. I counted 19 including two guests.
So what is a backward meeting? Well unlike a regular meeting we begin by adjourning the meeting. We then work backward, setting up next week’s agenda, presenting the thought of the week from last weeks best speaker, presenting the general evaluation of the meeting followed by the evaluations and then the speeches. We continue backwards until we call the meeting to order.
What makes this so interesting is that when the General or Chief Evaluator comments on how the Toastmaster opened the meeting with a particular phrase or gesture, when the Toastmaster gets to that point and remembers to insert that, it is a demonstration of listening and creativity.
For example, as the Grammarian when I delivered my ending report, I commented upon how the various table topic participants used interesting words. Then when they were given their table topics a little later, almost all of them were able to use the word I had selected for them. One new member gave his response to the question and then said, “You know I don’t know why but I am compelled to use the word Hiatus.” The word he was evaluated on.
Our Toastmaster of the evening Lillie Ben did a remarkable job of literally reading sentences backward in the delivery of her duties. Our speakers were able to craft their evaluator’s comments into their speeches in ways that were effective and funny. Each member that participated, from our 25-year veterans to our new members, were able to participate, stretch and have fun.
So what made this one work where others have not? I have to credit our President and VP of Education. They worked for several weeks to plan this. I was asked 4 weeks in advance to prepare for the Grammarian role. Then the evaluators all took time to meet with the speakers to get a sense of where they were going with the speech so they could contribute in a way that would not disrupt.
Now here is the kicker. As I observed the room there was not a dry eye. We were all laughing so hard we had tears running down our cheeks. Our guests were suitably impressed and wanted to come back to see what a real meeting looked like. You’ll want to do this in your club.