Toastmasters Pathways – Evaluation and Feedback

See my main Presentation Mastery Pathways page for some context. You become eligible to start this project after completing your icebreaker.

About the project

After some background, you watch three video evaluations of the same speech. With a timer counter in the corner of the screen. They show why the evaluations are better as they go. Which helps give an evaluation to others.

I like that Toastmasters is encouraging members to become a speech evaluator once they have given three speeches. (the icebreaker and the two in this project.) I notice some members are afraid to give a speech evaluation at that point so this will be a nice nudge of encouragement.

I also like that this project gives you the choice of using feedback to improve the same speech or to apply it to a new speech. This project had a three question quiz at the end to review what you learned and reinforce the key messages. Like saying “I” instead of “you.”

One thing I found confusing was that the links to download evaluation guides and such were a screen after “complete your assignment.” With completing, I thought there would be nothing else needed to start. Like the Icebreaker, I like that they provide the PDF version of the whole project. It’s good for a reference. It’s also good for seeing what people who opted for paper instead of base camp get. (aka seeing the value of base camp!)


Up until now, I had been using a scanner to create PDFs of my evaluation sheets. This time, I took a picture with my phone and converted.

Logging your roles

Also, this project is the latest you have done a meeting role. In addition to completing the project, remember to go to your base camp profile to indicate that you did the role. This needs to be done to log the date of the first time you do each of the following roles:

  • Ah-Counter
  • General Evaluator
  • Grammarian
  • Speech Evaluator
  • Timer
  • Toastmaster
  • Topicsmaster

To mark yourself off:

  • From the Base Camp home page, click “Settings”
  • Click “My Account”
  • Select the date you did the role
  • Click “Save”

performance tuning selenium – firefox vs chrome vs headless

I’m the co-volunteer coordinator for NYC FIRST. Every year we are faced with a problem: we want to export the volunteer data including preferences for offseason events. The system provides an export feature but does not include a few fields we want. A few years ago, my friend Norm said “if only we could export those fields.” I’m a programmer; of course we can!

So I wrote him a program to do just this. It’s export-vol-data at Github. And fittingly, he “paid” me with free candy from the NYC FIRST office. Once a year we meet, Norm gives his credentials to the program and we wait. And wait. And wait. This year NYC FIRST had more events than ever before so it took a really long time. I wanted to tune it.

Getting test data

The problems with tuning have been:

  1. I have no control over when people volunteer for the event. It’s hard to performance test when the data set keeps changing.
  2. The time period when I have access to the event is not the time period that I have the most free time.

Norm solved these problems by creating a test event for me. I started over the summer, but then got accepted to speak at JavaOne and was really busy getting ready for that. Then I went back to it and someone deleted my test event. Norm solved that problem by creating a new event called “TEST EVENT FOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT – DO NOT ENROLL OR DELETE, please. – FLL”. And one person did volunteer for that. But not a lot so it helped.

Performance tuning

I tried the following performance improvements based on our experience exporting in April 2017.

  1. SUCCESS: Run the program on the largest events first. (It’s feasible to manually export the data for small events. Plus those have largely people who also volunteered at a larger event.) This allows us to run for the events with the most business value first. It also allows us to abort the program at any time.
  2. SUCCESS: Skip events and roles with zero volunteers. For some reason, it takes a lot longer to load a page with no volunteers. So skipping this makes the program MUCH faster.
  3. SKIP: Add parallelization. I wound up not doing this because the program is so fast now.
  4. FAILED: Switch from Firefox driver to PhantomJS. I knew the site didn’t function with HtmlUnitDriver. I thought maybe it would work with PhantomJS – an in memory driver with better JavaScript support. Alas it didn’t.
  5. FAILED: Try to go directly to URLs with data. FIRST prevents this from working. You can’t simply simulate the REST calls externally.
  6. SUCCESS: Switch from  Firefox driver to Chrome driver. This made a huge difference in both performance and stability. The program would crash periodically in Firefox. I was never able to figure out why. I have retry/resume logic, but having to manually click “continue” makes it slower.
  7. UNKNOWN: I added support for Headless Chrome in the program. It doesn’t seem noticeably faster though. And it is fun for Norm and I to watch the program “click” through the site. So I left it as an option, but not the default.


Like any good programming exercise, some things worked and some didn’t.  The program is an order of magnitude faster now that at the start though so I declare this a success!

Toastmasters Pathways – The Icebreaker

See my main Presentation Mastery Pathways page for some context. To start a project, click “Activate” and then click “Launch”. At this point, your status changes to “In Progress.” It took a few minutes to load. Then I got a tutorial on the navigation. After that comes the main content.

The background information is similar to what was in the paper Toastmasters CC (Competent Communicator) manual. Many things are the same like the speech length and goals.


The first thing that is different is a project checklist PDF. It has things like scheduling your speech, rehearsing, giving your speech and submitting to get credit. Each checklist item has a box to check off and two lines where you can write comments. This whole checklist is optional.

Skills assessment

Next comes an interactive skills assessment where you rate yourself in certain areas. Not 100% intuitive is that you have to click the down arrow next to the word “directions” to actual take the assessment. The assessment is short and easy. You answers six questions by rating yourself on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high). [I like the new 5 point scale. We only had 3 numbers to choose from in the old printed manual world[


There’s a video where a few people talk about their icebreaker and provide tips. It lists a manageable number of points; each described by a different person.

Outline and tips

You can view/download an outline to help you prepare for your Icebreaker. You can even download it as a PDF. After that, you get some tips on timing and how to prepare. You also get information about what to expect at the meeting such as the speech evaluator along with what to review after giving the speech.


At the end of the project, you can download a few things in PDF form. Of particular note is the PDF sheet to print and hand to your evaluator. You can also download the whole project in PDF form.

After the speech

Next comes where you assess your skills again. I printed the form for evaluation. My speech evaluator evaluated me just like normal.  When signing back to Pathways, I re-took the initial assessment and the system compared my scores. It then told me that I completed the icebreaker. (So there’s some honor system that goes on here; that you’ll wait until after giving the speech to do the post-self assessment.

I closed the tab for my Icebreaker. This refreshed the curriculum page which unlocked the other two projects in the level – evaluation and researching.

Voluntarily upload eval

You don’t have to, but I went back to basecamp and choose e-portfolio. I then uploaded my a scanned copy of my evaluator’s form. That way I don’t have to worry about finding it when I complete level 1. The E-Portfolio has folders for each of the five levels which is nice.

Voluntarily evaluate the project for Toastmasters

You have the option of taking a survey about the project for Toastmasters to gather feedback.