Evaluation Tips For First Timers

Next week is First Oakville Toastmaster’s Evaluation Contest.

The evaluation contest is open to all members and if you’ve been a member for a few months and watched some evaluations, you might consider entering even if you haven’t done an evaluation yet at a club meeting. Talk with your mentor about whether you’re ready or not.

So here are some tips for newcomers to evaluating someone else’s speech.

Before we even begin our evaluation there are quite a few things we can do to prepare. Remember when you’re evaluating a speech, you’re being entrusted by the speaker to tell it as it is but also to be helpful and supportive. If nothing else be kind and be positive.

So for me, this means I evaluate people at the level of where they’re at and not at the level of where I wish they might have been. It’s important to evaluate the speech you heard and not the speech you wanted to hear. I give stronger evaluations to the more experienced speakers and warmer evaluations to the newer speakers.

It does a speaker no good whatsoever if you offer suggestions that don’t relate to what was presented. This is especially true if you strongly disagree with the subject matter or the conclusions the speaker reached. That’s not part of the evaluation to question the speaker’s conclusions or motives!

All evaluations should begin by saying something positive and warm about the speaker and his or her speech. “How wonderful to see you take the lectern. Your smile lit up the room” would be a pretty good start.

Then use one of the tried and proven structures of “content, language and delivery” or “heard, saw and felt” and add a summary (absolutely necessary in this contest) at the conclusion and tell the speaker you look forward to their next speech.

During your evaluation add your own observations as to eye contact, vocal variety and volume, gestures and use of notes and that should fill the time nicely.

Do not run your evaluation into the red light as you’ve only got 30 seconds by that point and you need to end the evaluation now or risk being disqualified by time.

Remember to keep the focus on the speaker and do not add stories about how you would have done (or did) something similar as the speaker. This is a great failing of my evaluations as I find myself talking about how I did something. This never goes over well and doesn’t win contests.

At the end of the night, whether it’s a regular club meeting or a contest, find a moment to personally congratulate the speaker and thank them again for speaking. That warm glow after an evaluation should not because they got roasted but rather they got toasted by a great evaluation.

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