For you, is evaluating speeches more terrifying than delivering the speech or responding to a Table Topics question? A speech evaluation deals with people's feelings, their self-esteem, their feeling of self-worth. We want to get it right. We want to make the speaker feel good and feel good about improving.
These principles apply to speech evaluations, to employer/employee relationships, to coaching, or to any situation where we give feedback.
In the Toastmasters training session, we hear the speech and take notes. Then we stand to give our best evaluation. Have you ever felt like you were babbling, trying to squeeze an encyclopedia of public speaking into 3 minutes? Are you unsure what to say, so you wind up saying, "Your vocal variety was good. Your structure was good. Your eye contact was... good. The whole speech was, you know... uh good. I really liked your use of words. I have a couple of suggestions on how you could improve this speech for next time."
To help ease our challenge with evaluating speeches, we see many suggestions on how to structure an evaluation. The most common is the sandwich method. Here are a few variations:
- Suggest/Criticize/Areas for Improvement
from Bob Turel, The Sandwich Master:
- Positives part 1
- Positives part 2
- Areas for Improvement
- Specific suggestions
Rob Christeson suggests:
- Open strong
- Be specific
- Summarize and be positive
David Hughes suggests CRCS and PIPS:
The G.L.O.V.E. method (Gestures, Language, Organization, Voice, Enthusiasm) is a method for providing a generalized evaluation. You could use it to structure the body of the evaluation, but we are still left without an opening and a conclusion.
The late Graham Wright gave me the following structure as a coach's gift and I honour his wisdom by sharing it with you:
When the evaluator is in rapport with the speaker, the speaker will more easily receive and apply the evaluator's feedback.
Here are a few ways to get into rapport:
- be enthusiastic and smile (duh). "Why so serious?" all you evaluators!
- describe your general response(s) to the speech. How specifically were you entertained, informed, intrigued, touched?
- if applicable, specify a way the speaker improved since their last speech in an area on which the speaker wanted you to pay particular attention:
- "You did speed up/slow down your overall tempo and paused shorter/longer"
- "You smiled a lot more in this speech and appeared more comfortable, which made me feel more comfortable"
To evaluate is to measure against a set of criteria. In Toastmasters, we do this to a degree when we complete the project-specific evaluation forms in the manuals.
Is the rating system on evaluation forms helpful to speaker? What does 2 Could Improve mean when all of us can always improve? Does the speak know what to continue doing or to change? The rating system is useless without specifics.
"Constructive criticism" contains the word "criticism." Consider the definition of "criticism" from Dictionary.com:
1. the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.
2. the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.
3. the act or art of analyzing and evaluating or judging the quality of a literary or artistic work, musical performance, art exhibit, dramatic production, etc.
4. a critical comment, article, or essay; critique.
5. any of various methods of studying texts or documents for the purpose of dating or reconstructing them, evaluating their authenticity, analyzing their content or style, etc.: historical criticism; literary criticism.
Most people get emotionally stuck on the judgement part of criticism and forget about the constructive part. Even the word "critique" creates negative feelings for most people, no matter how positive it might be, so don't criticize or critique. Giving feedback is different from evaluating, rating, and criticism. Feedback is:
- being specific ("I liked your..." and "You had good..." are useless.)
- describing how we responded to the speaker's speech and its delivery
- describing how your response could change with a specified change
Inspire the speaker:
- to accept and apply your feedback
- to enter their Discomfort Zone with experimentation and play
- to speak again.
By building rapport, giving specific feedback, and inspiring the speaker to continue growing, we will achieve the spirit of evaluating speeches in Toastmasters. This structure and underlying methods can be used in any situation: at work, in other organizations, and at home.
Click to continue studying the other three parts of this series:
Forms enable some people to more easily capture their thoughts.
Click to go to our Collection of Speech Evaluation Forms.