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Speech Evaluation Guidelines

Toastmaster | Public Speaking | Impromptu Speech | Ice Breaking ( first) Speech| Evaluation

Members of the club prepare and present speeches based on projects in the Communication and Leadership Program manual. One of the club members is designated to deliver the evaluation to the speaker orally in front of the audience. This article concentrates on listing guidelines for Evaluations and is written to encourage members to read the Toastmasters' manual - "Effective Speech Evaluation". This article is a set of points from this manual and some resources on the Internet.

Life cycle of Project from Evaluator's view

The life cycle of a project can be broken into the following major steps:
bullet Before the meeting, when roles and speakers are confirmed.
bullet At the meeting
bullet before the speech
bullet during the speech
bullet after the speech
bullet After the meeting.

Preparation: Before the meeting

Don't think that the evaluations are completely impromptu. The speaker would have spent hours or even weeks in preparing the speech. The evaluator should spend at least 15 to 30 minutes preparing, to be able to give best evaluation that the speaker deserves.
bullet Read the speech project: Evaluator should make himself/herself familiar with the objective of the project.
bullet Read the evaluation guide for the project: This gives the evaluator a template for evaluation of the speech. By reading this guide, the evaluator can mentally prepare for what to look for in the speech. This template can be used for writing down notes while listening to the speech.
bullet Talk with the speaker: Evaluator should make sure that he/she knows the goals of the speaker and of specific areas in which the speaker would like help. It is best, if the speaker exchanges with the evaluator list of things that he/she would like the evaluator to comment on. This list could be based on self-assessment or audience's feedback of the previous speeches.
bullet Add more value: Just to be different from other evaluators, find resources on the net or other places such as Toastmaster' s newsletter where speakers can go to excel the objective of the project. Make sure to mention these resources during the evaluation.

Introduce project: At the meeting, before the speech

Before a speech, the Toastmaster invites the evaluator to give a brief of the objective of the speech. Evaluators normally end up reading the objective directly from the manual. Just reading objectives from the manual serves little purpose and often leaves the audience confused. Following are some of the suggestions to make this small allocated time efficient.
bullet Read the project in the manual: Form your own sentences and tell it to the audience in few sentences. Have a sentence or two to explain the importance of the project (e.g., why vocal variety is important or why props are important in a speech). Please note that the majority of the audience, especially guests and new members could be unaware of the project. Spending 15 to 20 seconds on describing the project in your own words is worth the time. The key to deliver information in short time is to prepare.
bullet Help the audience focus on the objective: A better and meaningful introduction to the project help the audience to focus on the objective of the speech and makes their written evaluations more relevant.

Listen to the speech: At the meeting, during the speech

bullet Make Notes: Evaluator should have the evaluation guide and speaker's list of areas to concentrate in front. Listen to the speech carefully and make notes against these points.
bullet Prepare Evaluation Speech: After the speech, based on your notes prepare the evaluation speech.

Some tips for evaluations:


bullet a)Be Selective: You don't have to comment on every point in the evaluation guide. Select two or three important points and elaborate them.
bullet b)Be Honest: If you did not like some aspect of the speech, don't say you did.
bullet c)Encourage: There are many methods of conveying something the speaker did well and some which speaker could improve. The manual "Effective Speech Evaluation" explains these methods.
bullet d)Be Specific: For example, if the speech organization was confusing at one point, say so but clearly address what confused you and offer a suggestion for improvement.

Delivering the evaluation: At the meeting, after the speech

Carefully select words while delivering the evaluation because, how you say it is as important as the content of the evaluation. Evaluator's objective is to encourage the speaker to give better speech, not to criticize. Following are some of the guidelines for delivering the evaluation. Please read the manual Effective Speech Evaluation for detailed guidelines. It explains each of the below points with an example.
bullet You are speaking for yourself not on behalf of the audience. Whatever you say is just your opinion.
bullet Avoid impersonal statements that imply someone other than you is giving the evaluation.
bullet Don't repeat a point once you have made it. Repeating a point can sound like nagging.
bullet Don't do anything that calls more attention to you than the speaker. Avoid exaggerated gestures.
bullet Motivate… Motivate… Motivate. Remember that you are helping your friend, not reviewing a movie!
bullet Always conclude on a positive note that helps the speaker build self-esteem and self-confidence.

Get feedback on evaluation: After the meeting

After the meeting, meet the speaker and talk to him/her. Take feedback for your evaluation from the speaker. Get feedback from the audience on your evaluation. See if your evaluation was accurate. These feedbacks will help you give a better evaluation next time.

"Focus on your best and forget the rest."

You've read about evaluations in the manual. But you're still wondering, how does one give a good evaluation? You feel like showing the person you're evaluating ways they can improve, but you don't want them to feel bad. And you would like to point out the things that they did well. How do you spin it into an effective evaluation?

The Sandwich

A classic evaluation technique is called "the Sandwich." This is where you first tell the good news, then the bad news, and then more good news. The bad news is sandwiched in between the good.

This technique is slightly better than random talking. At best, the person being evaluated forgets the good news, and starts dwelling on the bad. At worst, you end up looking like you're applying sugar-coating and not being sincere.

The Modified Sandwich

The first step to rectifying the situation is to change "good news" and "bad news" into "strengths" and "weaknesses. " During the beginning of the evaluation, you point out the person's strengths, and how they were manifested during the speech. In the middle, you point out one flaw or weakness that detracted from the speech. At the end, you point out a couple more strengths that you feel the person already has, that they should develop.

This is much better, because now you've identified strengths that the speaker can work on.

This technique, however, is not yet perfect. Here's why. You've pointed out a weakness that the person can work on, but not a way to overcome it. I've blown many a speech working so hard to overcome a weakness, stumbling and stammering while I forced my way through my weakness, that my strengths never had an opportunity to shine through.

The Modified Modified Sandwich

The last modification is to give the speaker a way to overcome the weakness you pointed out. Here's how you might do it.

First, you point out the person's strengths, using examples of how they were manifested in the speech (as in the Modified Sandwich.) Then, you point out one weakness that detracted from the speech, and how it detracted (again, as in the Modified Sandwich.) Finally, you show the user how they can use one or more of their strengths to overwhelm or overcome the weakness.

Here's an example, illustrated recently in a speech by one of our members. Have you every heard a charismatic speaker speak? They move you, they inspire you. But if you listen very carefully and technically, you find that there are plenty of errors in their speeches. Did you care about these errors? No. The content and the speakers focus on their strengths carried them far above and beyond any errors or speaking weaknesses they might have had.

Let's suppose that the speaker you're evaluating made pretty good use of hand gestures, but spoke much too quickly. You noticed that whenever they used their hands for a grand gesture, their speaking slowed down somewhat. Here's how an evaluation might go.

"Today Joe wowed us with a great speech. Did you notice how his presence is one of his strengths? His use of gestures helped make the connection between Joe and the audience.

"Joe, however, sometimes speaks very quickly, which detractracted somewhat from his speech.

"However, I noticed that whenever Joe used gestures to make a point, his speech slowed down as he moved his hands to augment the point he was making. Joe, I'd suggest that rather than worrying about speaking too fast, simply make use of your presence and hand gestures as a way to naturally meter your speech."

Here, you've complimented Joe and pointed out a natural talent that he should further develop. Then, you point out a weakness. You did not say very much about it, because Joe and the audience already know this is a weakness, and neither need to be beat over the head about it. Finally, you not only complimented Joe's strengths again, but you pointed out a believable way for him to improve his speaking ability without spending any more time beating himself up about a weakness.

Tips for Making Your Job Easier

One thing you should always do is ask the speaker this question before listening to their speech: "What do you consider to be your strengths?" Some people give glib answers, or immediately focus on their weaknesses, so press them for an answer. Rephrase it: "What strengths have people pointed out to you on the evaluation slips you got from previous speeches?" or "I've noticed that you have a tremendous presence, would you consider this your strength?"

This question has two benefits: it tells you what the speakers strengths are before the speech, so you can focus on finding examples of this strength in the speech. It also gives you something positive to talk about in your evaluation. Of course, if you find a strength that the person did not mention, point it out!

Don't then ask "What are your weaknesses!" Instead, you might ask, "What one thing are you trying to improve most in this speech?" At the end of the speech, you'll find either that it wasn't a problem (in which case you should definitely point this out so they can move on!) or that it was. Either way, knowing this ahead of time will allow you to look for strengths in the speaker's style that can be used to mitigate the weakness.

Additionally, the speaker is supposed to meet some of the goals stated for that speech in the manual, and if there is a divergence, this is another opportunity for you to point out strengths that can be used to help the speaker better meet those goals.

Evaluating an Icebreaker

In my opinion, the Icebreaker is no place for negative reinforcement. It is the first few speeches where the new member is most "fragile" and needs a supportive environment the most. Therefore, focus on finding budding strengths and any gems encountered while enjoying the speech. There will be plenty of opportunities for constructive criticism later.

In the beginning of this article I placed a quote, "Focus on your best and forget the rest." I like this quote, not only because I made it up, but also because it really says that if you focus on your strengths and find ways to use them to manage your weaknesses, you won't need to focus on your weaknesses. Your strengths will simply overpower them, and you'll be able to forget them. 

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