Adapted from "Evaluated to Motivate," Toastmasters Successful Club Series
How do you evaluate people’s speeches in an honest, supportive manner that makes them want to give more speeches? How do you do so in a way that makes them want to keep improving their skills with each and every speech? I’m here today to help us improve our evaluation skills.
Right away, though, we have a problem. The people who’ve been doing evaluations at Itaewon Toastmasters tend to be so amazingly good at evaluating that:
-- It’s intimidating for new people. They can be afraid to start evaluating, even though they have to perform evaluations as part of the path to becoming a Competent Leader (CL)…And we should all be on the path to becoming a CL, or beyond. They’ll say, “Oh, I can’t evaluate as well as Jenny K.” Or, “My English not good enough to evaluate fluent English speaker.” So how ARE you going to become as good an evaluator as Jenny K., and how IS your English going to improve? Practice, practice, practice!
-- The other problem is that you haven’t seen many examples of BAD evaluations to help you compare and contrast what is good and what isn’t. So the first thing I’m going to do it give you a few examples of BAD evaluation.
1. Michael, your speech today was poorly organized. You failed to give us a good beginning, then your speech meandered this way and that, and then you just stopped at the end. Also, you stood behind the podium like you were chained to it. You should have walked around more. I did like your use of vocal variety, and you used some interesting English expressions. But you didn’t project your voice, so people in the back couldn’t hear you. Finally, I don’t like the color of your hair. You should dye it blond.
2. Yong-kwan, your speech was wonderful. I loved everything about it! You used the entire stage during your speech, and you employed interesting props to illustrate your point. Sometimes your voice was loud, sometimes soft, and you used pauses effectively. I can’t think of a single thing you did wrong. In fact, you were perfect! All I can say is wow! I bet you can even walk on water.
I’ll refer back to these examples during the course of my speech. Now, effective evaluators benefit the speakers by:
1. Providing immediate feedback. You don’t have to wait for it. And ideally, the feedback is offered in a supportive, caring way, in the genuine spirit of wishing to help you to improve.
2. Offering methods to improve. An evaluator offers you a fresh perspective. He can catch something you didn’t see.
3. Building and maintaining self esteem. You put in a lot of hard work to write and practice your speech. After receiving feedback, you work to improve your speech the next time. You see that your speaking skills improve as the result of your own efforts. This helps you to build self esteem.
In Toastmasters, we use the Tell and Sell approach, where the evaluator talks, and the speaker listens. The speaker doesn’t get the opportunity to defend himself, and say: “Well, I know my voice should have been louder, but I have a sore throat.” This allows the speaker to focus on what is being said, rather than what he plans to say in his defense. It also makes meetings efficient, with no time for digression.
Please keep in mind the following points when you are an evaluator:
1. Before the speech:
Meet with the speaker before the meeting starts. He’ll give you his CC manual, in which you will fill out a written evaluation. Talk to the speaker about his manual objectives: Is it his first Ice Breaker, where all he has to do is get himself up to the podium and talk about himeself, or is he supposed to persuade his audience about something?
Note his evaluation guidelines, the questions the manual asks the evaluator to comment on regarding this type of speech.
Ask whether he has any concerns, and also ask if he has any additional goals for this speech.
2. During the speech:
Show that you are interested in the speech, perhaps by referring to what the speaker said or did during the speech.
Put yourself in the position of the speaker. Is he a novice speaker who you want to handle gently, or is he a seasoned veteran who wants you to be very picky?
Take notes, so that you can give detailed feedback.
3. During your evaluation:
Choose your words carefully. Stay away from phrases like “You didn’t,” “You should have,” and “You failed to.” Did I use those phrases in my first Bad evaluation? Yes, I did. Every single one of them. Do use phrases like: “I believe,” “My reactions was,” and “I suggest that.” As an evaluator, always keep in mind: “What I saw,” “What I heard,” and “What I felt.”
Evaluate the speech, not the person. Focus on what the speaker says, not on who he is or what he looks like. Did I make this mistake in my first Bad evaluation? Yes, I told the speaker he should dye his hair blond!
4. Promote self-esteem. One way to do this is to use the “sandwich method,” by emphasizing the positive at the beginning of your speech, providing areas for improvement in the middle, and ending with upbeat observations and words of encouragement. Did I use the sandwich method in my first speech? No, I used a "reverse" sandwich, starting out with negative comments, saying a few nice things in the middle, then ending with criticism.
Avoid being disingenuous. Honest evaluations are upbeat and encouraging, while offering suggestions for improvement. This brings me to the second Bad evaluation I gave at the beginning of my speech. Did I offer any suggestions for improvement? No. Was I disingenuous? Yes. I told the speaker I thought he could walk on water.
Now, there may be times when the speaker is really good, and you just can’t think of any ways he can improve. When that happens, ask a highly experienced club member if she can come up with any suggestions. Once when I had to evaluate Alix, she did such a great job that she left me scratching my head. I asked Jenny V. if she could help me with advice on how Alix could improve. Jenny V. was happy to point out a few things.
You only have 2-3 minutes to give an evaluation, but try to allow yourself time for a proper conclusion. In your closing:
Connect to your opening statement.
Summarize your key points.
Give a personal story or example.
Encourage listeners to apply what they heard and learned.
I hope that our new members will take on the challenge of becoming evaluators. It truly is a rewarding experience that will help you in the workplace when you are called upon to evaluate other employees, and in the club, where you will be serving others.