It was one of the best leadership development decisions I ever made. In the early 80s I was living in the San Francisco Bay area and looking for a civic club to join. I researched several and settled on Toastmasters.

It was both an opportunity to meet new people (especially business people) and gave me a chance to improve both my leadership and communication skill sets.

I was a member of Toastmasters for 18 years, active in clubs in the Bay area, Colorado Springs and Palm Springs, California. In my book Leaders Who Last I mention Bill Retts who personally coached me in public speaking during our four years in Colorado Springs.

I could (but won’t) write a book on all the leadership and communication wisdom I learned during those 18 years. But I will share one simple thing as it relates to public speaking.

It’s the acrostic COD which, back in the day, stood for Cash on Delivery. This is when you ordered something and paid for it when it showed up at your home or business.

Here’s how it applies to public speaking:

Every time you give a speech in Toastmasters, you are not only evaluated by each member of the local club, but also have an assigned evaluator who shares what you did well and what you could improve upon.

COD was something I picked up that has helped me through the years in not only evaluating my own speaking but also evaluating others.

stands for content: Was the content relevant? Did it have meaning for the audience? Did it gain their attention…scratch where they were itching? Was it accurate, true, practical, meaningful, and thought provoking? Sometimes in speaking you can say things that are meaningful for you, the speaker, but not particularly meaningful or relevant for those listening. Was there a clear theme, a single idea that was easily understood? Were there stories and illustrations (especially personal ones) that kept the audience engaged and interested?

stands for organization: Was there a clear pathway that was easy to follow? Were there clear points that led the listeners in a logical and understandable way? Was there a clear opening and close? Did the communicator stay on track and on subject and not go down rabbit trails that didn’t fit the theme? Was there a clear outline that was followed? Were the main points expressed clearly and concisely? Did the speaker wander a lot and lose people along the way?

stands for delivery: Was the material relevant, well-organized content delivered with passion, conviction and authority? Was the content and organization delivered from the heart and not just the mind? 

And they were astonished at his (Jesus) teaching, for his word possessed authority.” Luke 5:32 (ESV) “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28, 29 (ESV)

I am reminded of two pastors (one from the charismatic movement, the other from a mainline church) who were having a theological discussion. The mainline pastor said, “Well, it seems to me that we essentially believe the same things.” To which the charismatic pastor said, “Yes, but the difference is that you have it on ice and I have it on fire.” We need to communicate truth with fire, not ice. The heart, not just the head! Good communicators have fire in their belly, fizz in their Coke, gas in their tank!

+ If you have an opportunity to communicate–whether it be regularly or occasionally–use COD as a way to have a few people evaluate how you did onContent, Organization and Delivery. Communication is essential and critical to good leadership! It’s worth the time and effort to become an excellent communicator as you improve your COD!