How I Perform Evaluations in Toastmasters

This was speech #3, Get to the Point, for Fox Valley Toastmasters on 2013-06-27.

Fellow Toastmasters and honored guests, today I’d like to describe to you how I perform evaluations here in our toastmaster’s club. I view evaluations has having two main parts. The first part is where I listen to the speech and observe how it’s presented. The second part where is I think and organize to prepare a speech of my own. For me, these two parts take the form of two sheets of notes.

The first part covers listening and observing, so I divide my notes into two parts along those lines. The first aspect is listening to the content or text of the speech itself. This is where I’ll take not of major elements I want to comment on, interesting turns of phrase, and the overall structure in case I want to comment on the use of introduction, body, conclusion, and so on.

The second aspect, or half of my notes, is observing how the speaker presents the speech. This is everything outside of the content itself, which you know from your Competent Communicator manuals:

  • Did the speaker use notes? Where they distracting?
  • Did the speaker use gestures? Did they add to the speech?
  • Did the speaker use vocal variety? Did it add to the speech?

Through trial and error, I’ve learned that it’s important to maintain balance in note taking. One trap I got into early was taking too many notes – I was looking at my paper, writing instead of paying attention to the speaker. Another trap I’ve fallen into was spending too much time on the content side, reproducing the outline of the speech. However, I’ve found that I tend to spend far more time in evaluation on the presentation than on the content, and the way I was taking notes wasn’t supporting the way I performed evaluations.

Once the speech is over and you’ve got your notes, it’s time for the second sheet of paper. This is where you think and plan out how you are going to deliver in your own evaluation. For me this takes the form of a kind of timeline. An evaluation is two to three minutes, so I make room for all three just in case, and divide the paper into three parts. Through experience I’ve found that make approximately four points per minute, so I divide up each minute in to four sections, giving me a kind of skeleton to hang the meat of my evaluation on.

That gives me 8-12 points. That may be daunting, but remember that a bit of it is ritual. Most evaluations start with “Fellow Toastmasters and honored guests, and especially our wonderful speaker…”. I usually continue with the title of the speech, the purpose if I know it. This can make a nice lead in to commenting on how well the speech fulfilled it’s purpose. And of course, the speech needs a conclusion, where I thank the speaker, perhaps reinforce a strong point, and turn the stage back over to the general evaluator. In total that’s three points – you’ve at least a quarter done, and you haven’t really had to say anything yet.

For the body, I aim for around four strong points, and three areas that might do with a little improvement. The wonderful thing about these number is how well they interleave, a technique often called sandwiching, so that I don’t dwell on either side two long. It also allows me to both start and end on a high point.

I view evaluations as two parts, which for me are two sheets of paper. In the first part, I listen to the speech and observe the speaker. In the second part, I think and plan out a timeline for my own evaluation.

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