The first article of the Speech Analysis Series explained how to study and critique a speech.
In this second article, we examinehow to improve your own speaking skills by teaching others in the form of speech evaluations.
You should regularly provide evaluations for other speakers — not only because it is a nice thing to do, but because the process of evaluating another speaker helps you improve your own speaking skills dramatically.
Speech evaluations are a core element of the Toastmasters educational program. After every speech, one or more peers evaluates how well the speaker delivered their message.Frequent feedback from peers helps speakers improve their skills.
However, speech evaluation is not limited to the Toastmasters program.
- You can evaluate a co-worker’s presentation.
- You can give feedback to the leader of a volunteer group in your neighbourhood.
- Or, in a more formal relationship, you might provide a critique to a client you are coaching.
I recently led a speech evaluation workshop. In that workshop, we discussed the following tips for delivering helpful, encouraging, and effective speech evaluations.
1. Effective speech evaluations benefit everyone
I often hear statements like “Only the speaker gets any benefit from an evaluation of their speech.” This is false.
- You (as the evaluator) improve as a speaker by providing an evaluation. A great way to solidify your own knowledge is to teach it to others.
- The speaker becomes aware of both their strengths and areas with potential for improvement.
- The audience for the evaluation (if there is one, as in Toastmasters) benefits from hearing the evaluation and applying the lessons to their own presentations.
- Future audiences benefit from improved speakers.
2. Learn the objectives of the speaker.
Before the speech takes place, ask the speaker what their objectives are. Sometimes the objective is obvious, but not always.
Perhaps the speaker has just read the Presentation Zen book and is experimenting with a modern style of visuals which goes against common practice.
- If you know this, you can tailor your evaluation accordingly.
- If you don’t, you may unfairly criticize them for not considering the expectations of the audience.
3. Consider the skill level of the speaker… sometimes.
Evaluating the (very) inexperienced speaker:
Treat novice speakers with extra care. Be a little more encouraging and a littleless critical, particularly if they exhibit a high level of speaking fear. Compliment them on tackling their fear. Reassure them that they aren’t as bad as they imagine.
Be supportive. Ask them how they feel it went.
Evaluating the (very) experienced speaker:
A common misconception is that you cannot evaluate a speaker if they are more experienced than you. This is false. Though you may have limited speaking experience, you have a lifetime of experience listening to presentations.
Your opinion matters. As a member of the audience, you are who the speaker is trying to reach. You are fully qualified to evaluate how well that message was communicated.
Every speaker, no matter how experienced, can improve. Perhaps more importantly, every speaker wants to improve. You can help.
4. Take advantage of available tools.
A speech evaluation is a pretty simple thing. Just listen to the speech, take some notes, and then share your opinion. Right?
That’s a good formula when you’re learning the art of delivering evaluations, but to really improve your skills, you’ll want to start assembling the many tools at your disposal:
- Study other evaluators and apply their techniques.
- Solicit feedback from others on your technique.
- Develop evaluation templates or forms that work for you.
- If available, utilize audio orvideo recordings to complement your evaluation. As an example:
- Without video, you can onlytell when a gesture could have been used.
- With a video recording, you can show exactly where a timely gesture could be used.
5. Be truthful.
If you did not like the speech, do not say that you did. If you did not like a component of the speech, do not say you did.
There is a tendency to want to be nice and embellish the positives. Dishonest praise will only damage your credibility and character.
6. Express your opinion.
Avoid speaking on behalf of the audience with phrases like “Everyone thought…” or “The audience felt…” You can only accurately talk about are your own thoughts and feelings.
On the other hand, suppose you observe a spectator crying as a result of an emotional speech. In this case, you can remark on this as evidence that the speech had emotional impact.
Magical phrases in a speech evaluation start with personal language: “I thought… I liked… I felt… I wish…”
7. Avoid absolute statements.
There are very few public speaking rules. For every best practice, there’s a scenario where a speaker would be wise to go against convention. Phrases such as “You should never…” or “One should always…” should rarely be part of an evaluator’s vocabulary.
8. Be specific. Use examples. Explain why.
How can you make sure that the constructive criticism doesn’t completely outweigh the praise and end up discouraging the speaker?
The answer: be specific. Studies have shown that specific praise is much more encouraging than generic praise. This applies to criticism as well. Specific feedback (positive or negative) is more meaningful than generic feedback.
e.g. “I liked the dynamic opening of your speech.” is better than “I liked your speech.”
In addition to being specific and tying comments to examples from the speech, it also helps to explain why you liked or didn’t like a particular aspect of the speech.
Consider the effectiveness of the following four statements:
- “Gestures were poor.“
- “Gestures were limited in the first half of the speech.“
- “Gestures were limited in the first half of the speech because the speaker gripped the lectern.“
- “Gestures could have been improved in the first half of the speech. By removing her hands from the lectern, she could more easily make natural gestures.“
Statement #4 is phrased in a positive manner, it is specific, it references an example from the speech, and states why it is good not to grip the lectern.
9. Don’t evaluate the person or their objective.
Evaluate how well the message is delivered, not the messenger.Keep your comments focused on the presentation.
Similarly, avoid evaluating the speaker’s objective. For example, suppose the speaker’s objective is to convince the audience that recycling is a waste of time. If you always reduce, reuse, and recycle, don’t let that influence your evaluation. (By all means, start a debate about it later, write an article, give your own speech, etc.) As an evaluator, your primary role is to help the speaker achieve their objective in the most convincing way possible.
10. Evaluate whether the objective was achieved.
Everything other than the speaker themself and their primary objective is fair game for your evaluation: content, speech structure, humor, visuals, eye contact, gestures, intangibles, etc. and everything else covered in the first article from this series.
11. The best evaluations are a combination of praise, areas for improvement, and specific suggestions.
All three elements are essential, but can be mixed in numerous ways. This is the focus for the next article in this series: The Modified Sandwich Technique for Evaluations.
Photos by Andrew Haney
Welcome to your new website. Your page already has rich content from Toastmasters International, District 5 and other clubs. There are several things that you need to do to make your site ready for the general public. I will list those things below. After you have made suggested changes, you can delete this post.
1. Login. Go to the bottom of the page and you will see the word Login. Use the login/password that you received in the notification email and you are ready to begin.
2. Set up your meeting info.
Here is a video that explains 1 and 2:
3. Add your meeting information to the calendar page and the calendar widget. Here is a video:
4. In order for other clubs to see your postings correctly, please change your default category. Any new posts that you add will then appear correctly on other club sites. Here is a short video:
5. The most important thing that you will do as webmaster is to share the exciting news about your club. Here is a video that explains how to post a story.
6. It is important for members and guests to be able to contact officers. Members might want to publicize important things that they are working on. Here is a video about Creating the Member Directory.
That pretty much covers setting up your website. Look around and if you have any topics that you would like for me to cover in a later tutorial, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Adding an author (coming soon)
8. Registering your site on Toaastmasters International
- Login to our website www.toastmasters.org/clubcentral with your User Name and Password
- Click on your club’s name in the red text
- Below Conduct Club Business, click on Update my club meeting information
- Make any necessary corrections to the club’s website link
- Click on the Update button at the bottom of the page
· Please allow up to 24 hours for the changes to fully process and display on our website.
Thanks to Michelle at toastmasters.org
Thanks for joining iCrewClubSites. Good luck with your new Toastmasters Website.
“What does that mean?” “Who has the answers?” “I am so confused!” Every single person asks these questions when first encountering a new environment, when first joining a new organization.
Toastmasters is no different.
A guest walks in and is immediately greeted by two or more smiling people!
“Sign the guest book.”
“How do I do that?”
“Here is some material about Toastmasters.”
“But where do I sit?”
Immediately, people are confused and their minds are whirling. Then, the meeting starts! More confusion.
The answers to a new member’s questions come after joining a club, then having a mentor assigned. However, we also have to explain things and answer guests’ questions, or else they probably will not join your club. Over the many years I have been in Toastmasters and in many other organizations, a mentor has made all the difference. Out of a mental morass into a mind-opening motivational state! How does a new member receive a mentor? Either directly ask another member to be your mentor or ask a club officer for a mentor.
Typically, in Toastmasters, a mentor guides the new member through the first three speeches in the competent communicator manual, the first or basic speech manual. Also, one’s mentor assists in explaining how each functionary role is to be performed. The functionary roles are the leadership roles in any club.
So, in my two clubs, I volunteered to be the VP of Mentorship. I explain what mentorship is to each club. I ask each member to be open to becoming a mentor. Then, I announce to each new member and to the entire club that I would assist in assigning a mentor to every single member of the club, not just new members. After all, mentorship in business or any organization can last for years.
Once two are paired, I frequently update and publish the club mentor/mentee list. Ideally, one experienced member has only one mentee. And, I urge each mentor and mentee to talk to each other! The mentor needs to be sure the new member asks the Vice President of Education to sign off each speech. Plus, the mentor should monitor the mentee’s leadership assignments to be sure they are signed off as soon as completed.
The result? Many questions are answered quickly for the new member. The experienced members who choose to have mentors have a friend who is willing to offer a suggestion or two when needed. And both clubs have more informed and more competent Toastmasters!
As you read this short essay on mentorship, decide to talk to your mentor today, or ask your VP of Mentorship to assign one. Remember, the answers can come from your mentor!
Ted Parsons, DTM
President, Bilingue Toastmasters
Vice-President of Mentorship, Sweetwater Valley Toastmasters
Ted Parsons has been a member of Toastmasters since 1966 when he joined during his career in the U. S. Navy. He is a 37 year charter member of Sweetwater Valley Toastmasters. As president of Club Bilingue, Ted took a small, struggling club to Select Distinguished in 6 months. –R.L.
Why I joined
Some of my reasons for joining Toastmasters initially were to advance in my job, improve my confidence, and learn. I knew I needed to improve my communications and leadership skills. All that I achieved. I improved immensely in my effective communications abilities and my leadership skills.
Over the years, I have been a leader on many weekend retreats, governing bodies, associations, and been the master of ceremonies for many events. My speaking skills, confidence, and leadership abilities, including success in my Navy, engineering, law, and teaching careers is based on my Toastmasters experience beginning in 1966.
Why I am still in Toastmasters
Now, I remain in Toastmasters because I treasure helping other Toastmasters, teaching, having fun, and being enthusiastic. My Toastmasters experience has been especially positive, exceptionally rewarding, and essentially a key part of my life. Toastmasters has allowed me to experiment and be silly, childlike, and innovative. So, I want to continue to improve my clubs by helping others, and, by doing so, I shall continue to improve my own speaking and leadership abilities.
Toastmasters, and life, is all about relationships. My Toastmaster friendships in many clubs have lasted for almost 40 years. Toastmasters has helped me to enjoy life. Thank you all for your friendships. May we continue to be friends and maintain our positive relationships for years to come.
Congratulations to your new officers! They are: President – Brenda Bautista, Vice President of Education – Meliza Ilagan, Vice President of Membership – Virginia Cruz, Vice President of Public relations – Juldia Bailey-Wormley, Secretary – Joseph Mogan, Treasurer – James Farrens, and Sergeant at Arms – Andrew Haney. They will assume their roles on July 1, 2014. The Installation Ceremony will take place June 28, 2014.