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Keep Your Evaluations on Target

To many novice speakers, the word “evaluation” brings back painful memories. Images of brutal remarks from schoolteachers and smirks from fellow students can pull a potentially great speaker away from the lectern. Yet, give that speaker one experience with a helpful, positive and motivating evaluation…and you’ll see the speaker work, progress and grow to realize that potential. Effective evaluations benefit the speaker by:

  • Providing immediate feedback. Supportive commentary and helpful suggestions can reinforce positive speaking behaviors and point toward areas that need work.
  • Offering methods for improvement. It helps the speaker recognize and then solve any difficulties that may have been encountered during a presentation.
  • Building and maintaining self-esteem. Learn how to play up your strong points and correct speaking flaws and you can’t help but feel better about yourself.

It stands to reason that the more effective we are in evaluating each other, the more each one of us will profit from the experience, whether we are delivering a speech, evaluating or sitting in the audience. How can you give a helpful and encouraging evaluation immediately after hearing a speech? There are several techniques available to help you master the art of evaluations.

First, it’s important to select your manner of delivering the evaluation. Though some evaluators use discussion as their process, the “tell and sell” approach is the most popular method of delivering evaluations in Toastmasters meetings, because it is the most efficient. This requires the evaluator to do all the talking while the speaker listens. An opinion is given in a few minutes, avoiding conversational digressions, and then the meeting continues. Not having to worry about carrying a conversation with the evaluator also frees the speaker to focus directly on the advice being offered. This method works best when the evaluator has more speaking experience than the speaker.

Once you’ve chosen the method you’ll be using, use these guidelines to help:

  • Show that you’re interested. Focus on the speaker’s needs.
  • Consider the speaker’s objectives. Contact the speaker in advance to discuss the manual objectives as well as the speaker’s personal goals and concerns.
  • Personalize your language. Avoid using advice that starts with, “You…” Instead, focus on the word, “I…” So that you give your personal reactions, rather than attempting to speak for the entire audience.
  • Evaluate the speech – not the person! Do not impose your values on someone else’s speech. Focus on helping the speaker communicate those thoughts in a more effective manner.
  • Promote self-esteem. Encourage and inspire the speaker to participate again by offering honest and sincere praise along with criticisms.

Has your club put an innovative twist to Table Topics? Concocted a better way to give evaluations to sensitive speakers? Used an unusual meeting format?

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