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Speech Evaluation II: Rapport

This is the third of a four-part series on evaluating speeches. The first article presented the speech evaluation structure. The general structure for evaluating speeches at the Message Masters Toastmasters Club is:

  1. Rapport
  2. Feedback
  3. Inspire

This article describes how to get into rapport with the speaker, putting you and the speak in a positive frame of mind, open to receiving and giving specific feedback.

Rapport, to Roger Ellerton, PhD, CMC, author, consultant, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Master trainer: about establishing an environment of trust, understanding, respect and safety, which gives a person the freedom to fully express their ideas and concerns and to know that they will be respected by the other person(s). Rapport creates the space for the person to feel listened to, and heard and it doesn’t mean that they have to agree with what the other person says or does. Each person appreciates the other’s viewpoint and respects their model of the world.

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As speech evaluators, if we are in rapport with the speaker, the speaker will more easily receive and apply the evaluator's feedback in a relationship of safety and trust.  We are more likely to have our intention understood and be understood. We will also understand the speaker's intention for their speech. We want rapport! 

Is it easier to get into rapport with someone about a speech they will deliver in the future or about a speech they just delivered and you are going to evaluate without having discussed it with the speaker?  Future, of course. The speech isn't yet delivered. Nothing is at risk. Therefore, start getting into rapport by discussing the speech project with the speaker... before the meeting.

Before the Meeting

Take these steps to build rapport with the speaker before the meeting. Just having the conversation will increase their confidence that they are in good hands and put them [more] at ease:

  • contact the speaker
  • determine what speech project the speaker is working on
  • does the speaker have any questions, concerns or thoughts about the project?  Does the speaker clearly understand and work to satisfy the speech project requirements?
  • in addition to the criteria of the project is there a particular area the speaker would like you to observe?  Would they prefer your additional feedback orally in the meeting, separately in person, or separately in writing?
  • is there an area the speaker would prefer you not comment on, or comment on only in private? May the speech evaluator or Toastmaster share this context with the audience before the speech
  • what are the speaker's general (e.g., persuasive speech or entertaining speech?) and specific purposes (what is the message, the thesis?) for the speech project?
  • what is the speaker's desired response in the audience (comprehension, emotion, entertainment, participation)?
  • review their speech presentation as much as time permits: content, structure/flow, visual aids, props
  • do you have ideas on how that response might be enhanced, how the general and/or specific purposes might be enhanced?  Be mindful of the speaker's available time, current ability, and current resources to apply the ideas.  The speaker can always take note of the ideas for future reference.

At the Meeting

  • greet the speaker
  • reaffirm your pre-meeting discussion. Which of the ideas you discussed will the speaker attempt to apply, or not?
  • if you did not discuss the speech before the meeting, do it now
  • ask for a quick run down of the speech to ensure your understanding (this quick review also gives the speaker one more opportunity to imprint the pattern of the speech
  • "Remember to [the area] on which the speaker wants to focus."
  • reassure the speaker. Remind him/her to have fun, that the exercise is to go through the exercise - the results don't matter here - only their having fun and learning
  • if possible, sit next to the speaker
  • if permitted by the speaker, share the context of the area the speaker is developing and ask for feedback from the audience

While Listening to the Speech

  • give your fullest attention
  • maintain eye contact and a friendly gaze with the speaker
  • respond to the speaker
  • minimize your note-taking (yes, this is a challenge)

While Evaluating the Speech

These ideas are just about establishing and maintaining rapport. A future article on Feedback will provide more details on analyzing a speech and giving feedback.

  • begin with a warm, genuine smile
  • make soft eye contact with the speaker (eyes popping with nervousness will transfer nervousness to the speaker)
  • ask the audience for responses, e.g. "Did you also notice...? [Nod agreement] Yes!"
  • maintain open body posture and gestures (open hands and arms; not jabbing at the speaker with an index finger)
  • avoid any variation of "[noun] was good, but..."
  • mention points discussed with the speaker (do not blind-side with something new)
  • describe the observed behaviour and the response it produces in you (do not try to read the minds of audience members)
  • you have ideas the speaker can try out, experiment with, and play with, not suggestions for improvement (see why in the future article on Feedback). Indicate that different people will have different responses... and it is okay
  • demonstrate ideas, so the speaker knows it is possible
  • with an idea, indicate your likely response to using the idea
  • indicate whether you are available and able to work with the speaker

Successful speech evaluation is partly about establishing and maintaining an environment of trust, being in rapport with the speaker for whose speech you are evaluating and being in rapport with the audience.

A side benefit is your evaluation skill will increase your presention skill.

Strive to create and maintain rapport before the meeting, during the meeting, and during your evaluation.  Being in rapport makes speech evaluating a valuable and rewarding experience for all.

Stay tuned for the next article on how to give specific, helpful, welcome feedback.

Craig Senior

Article excerpt copyright Roger Ellerton, used with permission. Roger Ellerton, PhD, CMC is the managing partner and founder of Renewal Technologies Inc. Click for more about Roger, Rapport, and Feedback.

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Reader Comments (1)

Thank you! This is good stuff, I love it. I had the chance of evaluating today an inspirational speech (cc#10) by our district governor. I used some of the principles you outlined in the first article and I believe it helped me. I will stick to this approach for a while to see where it takes me.

Sep 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBogdan Buduru

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