At a recent meeting a speaker shared with me one of the comments they (I’m using they as opposed to he or she on purpose) received following their speech. The comment was not uplifting, positive or particularly helpful. It was also unsigned. This got me thinking about who write such a comment and who would be so cowardly as to not sign their evaluation slip?
The only thought I had is it could have been a guest who didn’t know any better.
So if it was a guest who made this comment, how can we help our future guests not make the same error?
Whenever I sit with a guest I encourage them to vote for best Table Topics winner, best evaluator and best speaker. I also offer that they can fill out the evaluation form if they would like to offer our speakers some helpful thoughts. I go onto say what is recommended is to say something positive, offer a personal suggestion for improvement and finish with a positive comment. This seems to go down pretty well with most guests and I think they get a better Toastmaster experience by participating in the meeting rather than just sitting there.
I can remember evaluating a speaker at another club (it was likely during an evaluation contest and this guy was the target speaker.) who really struggled with his speech. He so nervous he forgot large sections of it and stumbled and apologized and it was a great relief to all when he had finished.
And, then it was my turn.
Honestly I couldn’t think of one positive thing to say. I had it in my head that this was the worst speech I’d ever heard. I didn’t want to crush the speaker but as I walked up to the lectern that was exactly what I was afraid would happen two seconds after I opened my mouth.
As I looked over the assembly I spotted the target speaker. He was sitting in his chair starring up at me with a look that said something like “please don’t beat me up too badly.” And it was in the moment when something amazing happened.
I heard myself say his name, let’s call him Ray, and I said something to the effect of:
“Ray I know you struggled with this speech but I’m guessing this was a huge step forward for you in your speaking career just to get up here in front of the audience and give it your best.”
Okay maybe I wasn’t quite that eloquent but you get the point.
But the look on Ray’s face changed from one of dread to one of pride. I could see it change right before me. He started to smile and nod in the affirmative and his shoulders dropped and he relaxed as I went on finding ways of turning faults into positive teaching moments. It was then I realized I had accidentally discovered a way of positively evaluating even the newest speaker in a way that would both help them and motivate them to do better in the future. I also felt better about my own evaluation which was warm and encouraging and friendly.
If you’re sitting next to a guest and you want to encourage them to participate in the meeting, you might want to offer them some direction before letting them loose on our speakers so we get no more off-putting comments on unsigned evaluation forms.