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The Silent Evaluator

Offering personalized speech feedback to any Toastmaster anywhere in the world.

W hen the world changes, we have
choices to make. My world
changed three years ago when I received
my diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
(ALS). This is a nervous system disease
that weakens muscles and affects physical
function. After the shock of the diagnosis
sank in, I wondered what the rest of my life
would be like. I quickly realized this deadly
disease was affecting my ability to swallow
and speak, among other challenges. It soon
became evident I could no longer speak
clearly, which meant reconsidering my
future as a Toastmaster.
I was saddened by no longer being able
to participate in club meetings. Then it
struck me. What did I love to do most as
a Toastmaster? The answer came easily:
Evaluate speeches! Ever since I joined
Toastmasters in 1996, I was drawn to
the evaluation part of our program. It
resonated with me, especially in light of
my career as a professional development
trainer. We used the “sandwich method” of
constructive feedback in every leadership
training program I facilitated.
So it was a natural fit for me to gravitate
to the evaluation process in Toastmasters
as well. I have been honored to conduct
evaluation workshops at clubs, Toastmasters
District Leadership Trainings (TLIs),
and District conferences. I produced an
evaluations training manual with the foreword
written by 2005 World Champion of
Public Speaking Lance Miller, DTM. And
many Toastmasters have complimented
my contributions as their evaluator. Basically,
what makes me effective at evaluating
is that I love coaching! Isn’t that what
evaluating is all about?
My challenge was figuring out how to
offer verbal evaluations if I no longer had
a voice to audibly speak. Once again, the
answer was easy—if speakers provided video
recordings, I could submit written feedback.
I began video recording the speakers
in my home club, Downtown St. Pete
Toastmasters in St. Petersburg, Florida,
and offering my feedback through email.
As this process was welcomed by many
members, I thought, Why not try and
expand the concept to other clubs? So
I did, through email invitations to
literally every District leadership team
in the world.
My invitations offering silent evaluations
by email espoused the rationale that
video recording one’s speech allows the
speaker to actually see what the feedback
refers to in the evaluation! In fact, with
a video file, the speaker might review it
several times for potential adjustments
to their speaking style. And this video
feedback process might include any
number of Toastmasters, even beyond my
home club. Recently, the world changed
again. This time with a global pandemic
that has caused Toastmasters everywhere
to consider the option of using video in
their online meetings, trainings, and contests.
As fate would have it, online video
conferencing offers a major advantage in
videoing speeches!
Like our organization’s transition to
Pathways, change happens, and we have a
choice on how to react to those changes.
I am asking all Toastmasters to embrace
the idea of video recording your presentations
and use it as a rehearsal tool for your
speech preparations, in your club meetings,
and in trainings. Since the beginning
of Toastmasters as an organization, the
core of its mission has been to assist one
another in the development of communications
and leadership skills. Let’s keep
doing that as a global team of Toastmasters!
Embrace using video to connect
with your Toastmasters family and allow
members like me to help you reach your
goals and become a better presenter.
Zoom and other video-conferencing
programs make recording your speeches
easy and accessible to others, with your
permission. Consider if this is a benefit to
you. If so, I’m looking forward to seeing
your speech and offering my feedback,
honed by my more than two decades’
experience as an evaluator and as a Distinguished
Toastmaster. I may have lost my
voice in the physical sense, but I retain a
keen eye and offer to assist a fellow Toastmaster
along their journey to becoming a
better speaker and leader. I hope you are
interested in exploring this exciting new
addition to the evaluation process.
Send me an email at,
and we’ll create a plan for silent, helpful
evaluations! T
BOB TUREL, DTM, is a 24-year member
of Clearwater Sunday Speakers in Clearwater,
Florida, U.S. He is a District 48 Lifetime
Achievement Award recipient, and affectionately
known as “The Sandwich Master.”
The author, Bob Turel, DTM, being
recognized by Past International President
Balraj Arunasalam, DTM (left), with a
Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. This
was the last time Turel was physically able
to facilitate a workshop.
Create the picture in your
audience members’ minds
by evoking as many of the
senses as you can.
Painting the Verbal Picture
Create descriptive images by drawing on common experience.
The goal of speaking and speechwriting
is communication. That’s not exactly
a news flash, I know. But as Toastmasters,
how can we choose the best words to
communicate what we want to say?
Speakers are typically trying to persuade
audience members to change how they
think or feel about something. To that end,
creating mental pictures to reinforce your
points is particularly valuable. The old
cliché says a picture is worth a thousand
words, but when all you have are words,
how do you create that picture in the
listener’s mind? Should you use long, fancy
words? In speeches and most written communication,
that would probably seem out
of place. Simple language is usually the best.
Normally, when you think “description,”
you think of adjectives. After all, their job
is to describe. But you can also use nouns,
verbs, and adverbs. The key is word
selection and specificity. If you look in a
thesaurus for any particular word, you will
probably find many synonyms. But not all
synonyms convey the same meaning. Each
word group has a circle of meanings, with
each word claiming its own unique place
in that circle.
Let’s take a simple example—the color
green. You have your basic green, dark
green, hunter green, lime green, and chartreuse,
just to name a few. No one would
confuse dark green and lime green. Yet
they are both green.
When you try to describe something,
choose the particular word that fits best.
A thesaurus may be helpful for that. The
more specific you are, the more effective
together that are not normally associated
with one another. I have a training segment
in my coaching videos where I talk
about speech organization, and I mention
speeches that seem disjointed. I say, “You
have probably heard speeches that seem to
jump around like a kangaroo on caffeine.”
This, hopefully, accentuates the picture
of disjointedness—and makes my point
stronger and more memorable.
Sometimes you can borrow a word from
an entirely different arena. As I write this, I
am in the midst of a COVID-19 shutdown.
I am in the “at risk” age group. My wife is
interested in health and nutrition and has
me using a number of products that boost
the immune system. Some of them are
topical and each has its own unique smell.
Unfortunately, those smells don’t complement
one another. One morning it struck
me that they produce an aromatic cacophony.
“Cacophony” refers to sound, but the
image it creates describes the competition
of smells better than any aromatic term that
I know. We have all heard dissonant sounds
and know how they make us feel. That
word captured what I wanted to convey.
The key to description is to tap into our
common experience. Don’t describe it from
your personal perspective. Find something
that your listeners or readers have
experienced. That is when the description
becomes vivid, real, and effective. T
Bill Brown, DTM, is a speech delivery
coach from Las Vegas and a member of
Ahead of the Curve Toastmasters. Learn
more at
your description will be. Take the time to
find the right word.
If you are telling a story, create the
picture in your audience members’ minds
by evoking as many of the senses as you
can. An example: “The swimming pool
had that pungent chlorine aroma and
the bright blue color of a cloudless sky.”
Sometimes a description can include more
than just the physical appearance. You
might want to include the effect that it had
on you. The famed United States Army
General Douglas MacArthur, in a speech
reflecting on his battlefield experiences,
mentioned “the witching melody of faint
bugles.” I can hear them now.
Another technique that helps create
a mental picture is onomatopoeia. This
is when the word imitates the sound
made by or associated with what you are
describing. MacArthur, in that same 1962
speech, refers to the “crash” of guns and
the “rattle” of musketry. The technique is
useful because it helps your listener hear
what you are describing.
Sometimes it is helpful to use a comparison:
Sweet as honey. Sour as a lemon.
Find a

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