Spa Speakers

Choosing the right words when evaluating

To evaluate a speech well is a challenging endeavour.

First, you’ve got to carefully listen to the content and observe the performance of the speech, looking out for strengths as well as opportunities for improvement.

Second, you’ve got to prioritise and organise all that information into a mini-speech that lasts no more than 3 1/2 minutes with very little preparation time.

Third, you’ve got deliver all that information through words that not only accurately convey your observations, but engage the audience and encourages the speaker.


Learning to evaluate a speech is like learning to drive a car. There a lots of component skills that need to come together, and that takes practice.

For this article, we’ll pick up on the third point: choosing your words.



Can you find the right words quickly?

Let’s say you are evaluating hypothetical member Peter’s speech.

You could say:

“I thought Peter’s eye contact with the audience was good….”

“I thought Peter’s use of facial gestures to reinforce the impact of his words was really good….

“I thought Peter’s use of pauses to create tension was really really good…..

In the heat of the moment, with the time constraints involved in preparing an evaluation, resorting to adverbs is quite understandable. But as a famous author once said…

The road to hell is paved with adverbs

Strong words from Stephen King!

If you want to engage and entertain your audience as well as convey your meaning to the speaker accurately, moving past “very” and “really” is essential. A key skill for all of us, then, is expanding our evaluation vocabulary!

Some alternative adjectives to advance your evaluations!

See if the following (and by no means exhaustive!) selection of words might be better alternatives to anodyne descriptions such as “very good”.

Words that convey skillful use

  • ingenious
  • proficient
  • capable
  • accomplished
  • advanced
  • impressive
  • commendable
  • skilled
  • elegant

Words that convey engagement

  • captivating
  • enchanting
  • mesmerising
  • absorbing
  • compelling
  • riveting
  • rapt
  • magnetic
  • thought-provoking
  • gripping

Words that convey joy

  • delightful
  • delicious
  • gorgeous

Words that convey power

  • bold
  • impressive
  • intense
  • powerful

The list is of course endless! Here is a random selection that are none of the above:

  • unique
  • warm
  • juicy
  • gratifying
  • clear
  • succinct
  • efficient

Picking the words that match the situation accurately truly is an art!

A word of caution

With so many amazing words at our disposal, there is a risk of letting our desire to dazzle linguistically override the true purpose of a speech evaluation, which is accurately conveying helpful feedback to the speaker. Being entertaining and engaging should never come at the expense of conveying meaning in a precise, constructive and compassionate way to the speaker.

A lifelong journey

The richness and beauty of the english language is a tremendous gift but also a fabulous challenge for those of us who want to excel as speech evaluators. To be truly skilled, having the words that accurately match the meaning we wish to convey at a moment’s notice is essential. In this regard, there is opportunity for even the most experienced member to raise their game. The question is: are you up for the challenge? (we know you are!!)

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