Article based on interview by Val Adolph
Noel Bentley DTM, is known in his two clubs, White Rock Toastmasters and Professional Edge as a consummate speech evaluator. Here he shares some of his thoughts on that valuable Toastmaster skill – Speech Evaluation.
Every single Toastmaster is more than capable of evaluating a speech. No-one should say, or be allowed to say “I’m not good enough to evaluate yet”. Even if you are not experienced give yourself permission to evaluate someone’s speech. Look at it this way – they are asking for your help to improve. Do you really want to turn down a request for help? They are waiting for you to do just that – to help them. Even the newest Toastmaster can find something good in a speech and something that might be improved.
Decide how you will structure your evaluation BEFORE you stand up to present it. The speaker and the audience want to hear your feedback, not watch you assemble your points while standing at the lectern.
Structure is such an important part of an evaluation. You shouldn’t be trying to figure out how to put your thoughts together as you’re standing up to present them.
Find a structure you can work with – there are lots of them, find one you can work with comfortably. Make yourself a template from it to use each time you evaluate. Many people like the sandwich method (a good point, a suggestion for improvement, and what you liked best.) Others adapt this to a 3-2-1 method (three good things, two ideas for improvement, one great point). There are many more structures to choose from and most have enthusiastic advocates. Try different ways to see which works best for you. The only right way is the way that helps you give the strongest and most supportive evaluation.
Get familiar with the different types of evaluation – how an Ice Breaker evaluation differs from, say, an evaluation of a speech being prepared for a contest. Different speakers have different levels of needs for encouragement and for being spurred on to greater efforts. It’s not helpful to simply guess what the needs are, it’s important to talk with the speaker ahead of time and to ask them.
A ‘before talk’ is very helpful to discover precisely what a speaker needs or is looking for. An ‘after talk’ to give greater depth and a more personal understanding of your evaluation helps too. It’s not only about having listened well, it’s about communication.
The evaluation is based on the needs of the speaker; the evaluator tries to deliver whatever is needed at the time. Sometimes you need to add in a challenge. For instance, if a speaker makes the same mistake each time they speak it’s good to give them a challenge to address that issue.
Higher levels of analysis are needed when you are evaluating a speech that is being prepared for a contest, so you may be providing more suggestions for improvement than usual. Still, it’s important to remember that encouragement is part of the package too.
Evaluation is all about listening. If the speaker indicates that you have nailed the evaluation, then they know you were listening very deeply. It shows that you have taken an interest in the speaker and you care about his progress.
The more you evaluate the more you see its many facets. A strong evaluator:
- builds the speaker’s self-esteem as well as motivating and counselling the speaker.
- uses concrete examples to illustrates the points made
- makes it clear by using phrases like “it seemed to me…” that this is just one person’s opinion.
Every Toastmaster has a suggestion for improvement for even the best speech, World Champions included. We all have unique insights and perceptions. Offered constructively these can help another Toastmaster along their path.