Spa Speakers

Some thoughts on how to deliver an excellent evaluation

Evaluation is the feedback we give to each other in Toastmasters.  A well-structured and appropriately delivered evaluation lets us know what we did well and what we could improve on. In the context of Toastmasters we may be called upon to evaluate speeches, table topics, leadership roles and other people’s evaluations. For simplicities sake, in this blog I am going to focus on evaluating speeches.

What did your audience really think of your speech?

But first, join me in picturing a Spa Speakers meeting without evaluation. Imagine you’re doing your third speech. You’ve done your preparation and you hope that this speech will be a real step up for you. You get to the meeting in plenty of time, you give your speech and you think it’s gone okay. There have been some smiles and nods in the audience but also some blank faces. At the end everyone applauds, you sit down and the meeting continues. Without evaluation, how would you know how your speech has been received, whether you’ve fulfilled the objectives and how to do even better next time?

Without evaluation, how would you know how your speech has been received, whether you’ve fulfilled the objectives and how to do even better next time?

Why do we evaluate?

I’m going to make an assumption that we are part of Spa Speakers because we want to improve and to learn. And I believe that evaluation is the best way to help us to do this.

In Toastmasters we take a coach and mentor approach to evaluation. We aim to enhance the speaker’s confidence, reinforce their successes and offer recommendations for the future.

As an evaluator, we develop more than just our speaking skills. It is a role that requires us to listen intently and purposefully.

As an evaluator, we develop more than just our speaking skills. It is a role that requires us to listen intently and purposefully. We ‘tune in’ at a deeper level than when we’re just listening for enjoyment. I know I’m frequently inspired by other people’s assessment skills and their precise but very helpful recommendations.

When we take on the role of evaluator we also develop our ability to make impromptu speeches. After all, an evaluation is a short speech with little preparation time. This helps us at Spa Speakers with table topics, but also in the real world with clarity and quick thinking when we need to speak spontaneously or to engage confidently in debate.

I think most of us find evaluating another’s speech a humbling thing to do. It is a privilege to give someone feedback when we know that they have worked hard to write the content and had the courage to stand up and deliver it. And as their evaluator, we may be the only person in the room who knows about their personal goals and challenges, and we can help them to achieve those through an honest but kind assessment of their efforts.

You are already an evaluator

In Toastmasters, we can all be evaluators. You might think you have little or no evaluation experience but this is not true. Even if you have limited speaking experience, I would suggest that in your daily life you give feedback in some way in other areas of your life.

What Toastmasters allows you to do is to build on those skills.

Evaluation is a personal opinion

when we evaluate we are simply giving our own reaction.

Something we need to be mindful of is that when we evaluate we are simply giving our own reaction. We are not speaking on behalf of the audience, so we need to avoid saying things such as “we think”, “we believe” or global statements such as “you should have”.

Instead we can use words that describe our own reactions to the speaker, such as “I suggest that…”, “I was impressed with,” “I was confused about,” “when I heard,” “I thought… I liked… I felt…” and so on.

A balanced evaluation

Our aim as evaluators is to give positive and constructive feedback that will motivate and genuinely help not just the receiver, but the whole audience. Good evaluators strive to find a balance. A harsh evaluation may cause a member to lose confidence while an overly kind evaluation may not help the member to improve.

A harsh evaluation may cause a member to lose confidence while an overly kind evaluation may not help the member to improve.

 Structure

Just like any other speech. an evaluation must have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Find a strong opening statement and an encouraging closing remark.

An evaluation should include:

  • What the speaker did well (commendations),
  • Areas where the speaker could improve (recommendations),
  • Specific things they could do better,
  • A summary which should reinforce the points already made plus any additional things you want to say. In competitions the summary accounts for 15 out of 100 points.

Just like any other speech. an evaluation must have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Find a strong opening statement and an encouraging closing remark.

Characteristics of a good evaluation

Be clear. You have 2 – 3 minutes (max 3.5 mins) so you won’t have time to cover everything. Instead, simply select two or three points which you feel are most important. And remember that you don’t need to quote long sections of the speech for the audience because they’ve already heard it!

To be really helpful you will need to be specific.

To be really helpful you will need to be specific. Don’t just say, “Hannah’s speech made me laugh”, talk about the specific words, timing or tone of voice that you found funny.

Tell the speaker how what they did and said made you feel: not just “I found Amit’s speech moving” but “the way Amit paused after he told us about his father’s diagnosis brought tears to my eyes” not just “I enjoyed the way Sarah began” but “the dynamic way Sarah opened her speech made me feel so excited to hear the story that was about to unfold”.

Your less positive comments should also be specific AND give suggestions for how the speaker might improve their speech. Not just “Ross stood quite far back” but “Ross stood quite far back and personally, I would have felt more engaged if he’d come closer to his audience”.

How you say it

Remember, the way you speak your words – your tone, volume and phrasing – has as much impact on the speaker as what you say.

Avoid judgment words and phrases and base your feedback on facts not interpretation; for example, an interpretation would be “Ernest fidgeted which showed how nervous he was” but a fact would be “Ernest at times moved from foot to foot which I found a bit distracting”.

Your evaluation is for the benefit of the whole audience, so make eye contact with everyone not just the speaker. To help with this, speak about the person, rather than to them.

After the evaluation

Follow up with the speaker and ask if they have any questions or comments about your evaluation. If you have other comments you would like to make verbally, do it at this point.

Then you just need to complete the written evaluation in their manual, pat yourself on the back and take in the evaluation of your evaluation!

Fiona Clayton
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Fiona Clayton

Former President and Social Secretary at Spa Speakers
I sought out Spa Speakers because I work with some very good public speakers and I was inspired to improve my own communication skills. But I didn’t realise just how much I would benefit. My confidence to stand up and speak in front of others has grown massively and this has been noticed by my work colleagues. By taking part in a number of roles in the club I believe I’ve become a better leader and facilitator.
Fiona Clayton
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