The general structure for evaluating speeches at the Message Masters Toastmasters Club is:
The first article in the series presented an overview of the speech evaluation structure. The next was on creating and maintaining rapport with the speaker. This article presents details on 2. Feedback, being specific, helpful and positive. The final article will describe how to inspire speakers to want to grow and speak again.
Bad Words in Evaluations
I am kidding when I say these are "bad words." That was just to pique your interest. I mean let's strive to use words that are clearer, specific, and keep you in rapport with the speaker. When giving feedback, erase these words from your vocabulary:
- "M. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, honoured guests, and most especially you, [speaker]" - does this build rapport, lead in logically, or inspire? Is the speaker or audience confused about who you are addressing?
- improve - other than improving in the most general sense (we are all improving), what does "improve" really mean? Improve in whose mind? If for one listener, a speaker spoke too softly and for another the speaker spoke too loudly, how could either listener suggest an improvement in volume?
- should - Who are we to tell a speaker what they should or should not do?
- effective - what is effective?
- "you were [feeling]," e.g. "you were confident" - How do you know? Can you read minds? What if the speaker actually felt terrified?
- "we [the audience] all [feeling]", e.g. "everyone was amused" - How do you know?
- "[anything] was good" - what is good? What is bad? In whose mind?
- any form of "it was good, but" - everything before the but is forgotten
- "to be honest..." - as opposed to?
- "I find nothing for you to improve on" - good, don't
- "overall, it was a very good speech" - Zzzzzzzzz
- "I look forward to hearing your next speech" - Really?
- "in my opinion" - and who else's opinion could you have?
- "I have some constructive criticism" - speaker hears, "I have criticism"
These are not feedback:
- Retelling the speech, e.g. first you told us X, then you told us Y, than you told us Z. Most speakers are aware of what they said.
- meta evaluating - describing how you will evaluate or describing ideas about evaluating provides no feedback to the speaker!
Read more words and phrases that make you cringe at the Toastmasters Members group on LinkedIn:
Principles of Feedback
- Maintain rapport
- Describe observations only
- Be specific
- Describe YOUR responses
- Involve the speaker
To help you give neutral or positive feedback the speaker can apply and recommendations the speaker can apply, the following sentence structures might help. I realize it will take practice to internalize them to the point where it is intuitive for you.
Sentence Structure for Analysis:
- [Observation] [Response]
e.g. "When you described the first time you drove a car, your vocal and physical expressiveness (demonstrating how you drove) were so real that it I could easily remember my first time driving and made that story very real for me. You held my attention the whole time."
Sentence Structures for Ideas:
I prefer to say "ideas" instead of corrections, recommendations or suggestions. If you describe your new response if the speaker applies your idea, the speaker can choose whether that response is desireable. You might be out to lunch sometimes (I am too and that's okay). Encourage the speaker to weigh your feedback and ideas against feedback from others and decide what to do. Encourage experimentation, playfulness, and discovery.
- [Observation] [Effect on you] [Idea] [New Effect on you]
Example: "When you described the first time you drove a car, you described the sceen clearly, we got all the facts and I understood what happened. I noticed that your voice and body remained the same when you started driving as when you were narrating. That caused my attention to drift and I could not feel the scene. Try placing yourself in the scene with all of the emotions you felt that in that moment. Allow your voice, body and face to express the emotions you felt that day. Demonstrate what happened. For me, that will make the scene more real, remind me of my first time driving, and help maintain my attention."
- [Observation] [Effect on you] [New Effect on you] [Idea]
Example: "When you described the first time you drove a car, you described the sceen clearly, we got all the facts and I understood what happened. I noticed that your voice and body remained the same when you started driving as when you were narrating. That caused my attention to drift and I could not feel the scene. To make the scene more real for me, remind me of my first time driving, and maintain my attention, try placing yourself in the scene with all of the emotions you felt that in that moment. Allow your voice, body and face to express the emotions you felt that day. Demonstrate what happened."
"Try asking the audience for examples of the same experience and see if that interaction increases attentiveness and interest."
"Try planning to use the space on the stage by telling your early childhood story on your right, school in the middle, and work on your left. We'll see if that gives us a more visual sense of the passing time in the speech."
"When Jimmy in your story said, 'Wow, what a beautful spring day!' he had his hands at his side, even voice, and his face was the same as the narrator. That moment was an opportunity to allow your own joy of a beautiful spring day to guide your body, expressions and voice. If you went outside on a beautiful spring day, what would you do? How would you say it? You might... [If your meeting situation enables it, involve the speaker in answering the questions] smile, yes. Open your arms, yes. Close your eyes, look up and almost breath the breath of life into it, "Wow... What a BEAUTIFUL SPRING DAY!"
When giving feedback, "don't worry, be happy." Stay in the rapport you created at the start of your evaluation. Smile. Maintain open gestures. Stay in softer vocal tones. Use your body to demonstrate what you mean.
Did you catch the example above when I suggested involving the speaker in answering questions about what could be done in the speech? Get the speaker talking. Use their ideas about their speech. Depending on how quickly the speaker can mimic and model, get them to stand up and model the change now. Get them to demonstrate the change with you or after you. This can be a lot of fun and fully involves the speaker in their speech evaluation. Here's the kicker, "Because you were able to do this now, you know that you can do it in the future [huge smile and get agrement from the group].
Here we just touched on giving feedback. A book could be written about it and and probably has been. Go easy. Forgive and have fun with our fabulous foibles. Look out for the final article in the series when we share ideas on inspiring speakers to want to learn, play, and speak again.
The final article in the series: Inspire.