Evaluating a speech should be more than just listening to it and quickly filling out an evaluation form. Preparation is a key ingredient, and without doing our homework ahead of time, we lessen the impact of our speech evaluations. For the past few years, I have been using a technique that centers around a three-step process I call the “Three R’s”: Reach Out, Research, and Reflect.
1 Reach Out.
Your first step as a speech evaluator is to connect with the speaker to collect information that will help facilitate their growth and motivate them to continue to progress. Assuming the speaker is working in Pathways, find out what project they’re working on and download it from the Tutorials and Resources page in Base Camp, the online learning management system for Pathways. (Or have them send you a copy of that project’s evaluation resource.) Second, ask if the speaker has any additional skills they want you to focus on during your evaluation (such as vocal variety). Finally, ask about the speaker’s overarching goal in Toastmasters (why they joined, what skills they hope to gain). This information can also provide motivational leverage for your evaluation.
Once you know the project and the speaker’s motivational touchpoints, familiarize yourself with the learning and competencies of the project. Review the project description you downloaded. Then, read it again, highlighting main points and taking notes to ensure understanding. Reach out to seasoned evaluators in your club and your Vice President Education for additional effective evaluation strategies.
3 Reflect.Think back on any of the speaker’s recent performances—a past speech, a meeting role, Table Topics, etc. What strengths did they exhibit? What could they have improved? What comments did they receive from other members? Having this information for the evaluation allows you to recognize any improvements in the speaker’s performance—be it an even better display of their strengths or showing more polish in making a point. Recognition of improvement is a critical element in motivating others, and a successful evaluation is a motivational evaluation.
By the time you are ready to evaluate the speech, you’ll have a solid foundation for providing thoughtful and valuable feedback, both verbally and in your evaluation scores. The Pathways evaluation criteria allow for specific and detailed feedback, so don’t wing an evaluation on the spot. Preparing ahead of time allows you to offer not only your insight to the speaker but also important motivation for their next speech.
Justin Bordessa, DTM is a member of the Downtown Toastmasters in Santa Rosa, California.