Effectiveness and Content structure

Introduction

Public speaking and leadership are skills that can be developed and improved. In our club the feedback is called evaluation, and we are using the Toastmasters
educational program method. You observe the speeches and leadership roles of your fellow club members and offer evaluations of their efforts, and they do the same for you. If you truly want to improve your speaking and leadership skills, you must learn how to give and receive helpful evaluations. 

The EVALUATOR'S ROLE

Have you ever helped your child with a school assignment? Been asked by a co-worker for advice on a project? Offered suggestions to local government?
If you have, you have been an evaluator. You have listened to and observed others and their work and offered feedback. You evaluate in some manner every day, at home, at the office, and in the community.

Even when you are not the assigned evaluator, you are encouraged to give feedback. The more feedback a speaker or leader receives, the more the person benefits. This evaluation need not be as detailed as that of the assigned evaluator, but it should mention something the speaker or leader did well, something that could
be improved, and a specific recommendation for improvement. 

How to Prepare: 

The speaker or leader has spent hours – even weeks – preparing a project. She deserves the best evaluation possible. The evaluation you provide should be thoughtfully prepared and presented. You will not need hours of preparation time, but you will need at least 15 minutes to do the following:

 1. Read the project. Every project in the Competent Communication, Advanced Communication Series, and Competent Leadership manuals has a different purpose and different objectives. You will have difficulty evaluating if you are not familiar with the project and objectives. Before the club meeting, obtain the manual from the person and carefully read the project description and objectives. 

2. Read the evaluation guide for the project. The guide explains what you should be looking for as you evaluate. It lists specific questions about the speaker or leader and provides a space in which you may write comments. This is the written evaluation you will give to the speaker or leader after the meeting. You will also use this guide as a basis for your verbal evaluation. Your evaluation need not be limited to these points, however. If you want to comment on other aspects of the person’s efforts, you are welcome to do so. 

3. Talk with the speaker or leader. This is an important yet sometimes neglected step. Your evaluation will be most helpful if you are aware of the person’s general goals and of specific areas in which the person would like help and feedback. If the leader tells you, for example, that she is working on strengthening her organization skills, you may want to specifically address this in your evaluation, even though the evaluation guide does not mention it.
You will also be more helpful if you are aware of previous feedback the speaker or leader has received and any progress made. Avoid duplicating previous evaluations, and don’t merely watch for small inadequacies. Good eye contact, meaningful, natural gestures, and correct grammar contribute to the overall effect of a speech but should not be given so much emphasis that they detract from the basic purpose of the evaluation.

Your Evaluation
Before the club meeting begins, get the manual from the speaker or leader and turn to the appropriate evaluation guide. Listen carefully and watch closely. Don’t let your mind wander or become distracted. Make notes on the evaluation guide if you want to.
After the speaker or leader has finished, begin preparing your evaluation. Complete the evaluation guide, but remember that you need not comment on every question. Then prepare your verbal presentation. You won’t have time to cover everything. Instead, simply select two or three points which you feel are most important and elaborate on them. Be honest. If you did not like some aspect of the person’s performance, do not say that you did. Mention something the person did well in addition to something which could be improved. Some Toastmasters like the “sandwich” approach, where a suggestion for improvement is sandwiched between two positive comments. Evaluate only areas that the speaker or leader has the power to change. Be specific. If the speech organization was confusing at one point, say so but clearly address what confused you and offer a suggestion for improvement. “When you were talking about the truck, I wasn’t sure if you were referring to the new one or to the old one. Giving each truck an appropriate nickname and using it throughout the speech may have worked better. That would have made the references clearer to me and maybe even have added more humor.” Or, “I found the evaluation helpful. But I believe that limiting the number of helpful suggestions to three instead of five would have been more manageable and less overwhelming for the speaker.” If you were impressed, for example, with the speaker’s description of an object, say so. “When you described that fudge cake, my mouth watered.”

How you phrase your evaluation has as much impact on the speaker or leader as the content of your evaluation. When you mean well and have good ideas but use words that put the person on the defensive, your message is lost. Carefully select your words, using the following guidelines.


– Remember that you are speaking only for yourself, giving only your opinion. You are not speaking on behalf of the audience; in fact, your opinions may differ from those of the rest of the audience. Avoid saying “we think,” “we believe,” “the audience would have,” “the audience didn’t understand,” and other words that imply you are speaking on behalf of others.
 – Likewise, avoid impersonal statements that imply someone other than you is giving the evaluation, or imply the evaluation is directed to someone other than the speaker. Do not say “they say,” “one must,” “people are,” or make other vague references.
– Avoid judgment words and phrases, such as “good leaders don’t,” “that was the wrong thing to say,” “if you want to do it right, you must,” “you did,” and “you were.”
– Use words that describe your own reactions to the speaker, such as “I was impressed with,” “I was confused about,” “when I heard,” and “I think the speech’s purpose would have been clearer if,” and “I liked it when.”
– Don’t repeat a point once you have made it. Repeating a point can sound like nagging.
– Avoid words like “never” and “always.” These exaggerations detract from your message.

Your Delivery:
When you evaluate, you are giving your personal opinion in a friendly, direct, non-threatening manner. Look directly at the speaker or leader as you give your presentation. Smile. This is not a speech, and you should do nothing that calls more attention to yourself than to your effort to help the speaker or leader. Avoid exaggerated gestures or body language unless they are to illustrate a point you are making about the person’s efforts. 

As You Conclude:
The speaker or leader should always walk away from the meeting feeling motivated and eager to begin working on his next project. How you finish your evaluation often determines whether a speaker or leader is motivated or unmotivated. Conclude on a positive note that helps build self-esteem and self-confidence. You could finish by pointing out a particular part of the person’s efforts that you really liked and the effect
it had on you. If the person has shown dramatic improvement in some area, mention it and offer congratulations. Find something that affected you in a positive way and comment on it.


Follow Up with the Speaker:

After the meeting, return the manual with your written evaluation and ask if he or she has any questions or comments about your evaluation. Make sure the speaker or leader did not misinterpret anything you said. If you have other comments you would like to make verbally, do it at this point. Ask if you could have said or
done anything differently in your evaluation that would have been more helpful.

Follow Up with the Audience:
As mentioned earlier, your evaluation is simply your opinion. You may want to speak with other members in the audience to see if your evaluation was indeed appropriate and accurate. Opinions may vary. But such feedback can help you the next time you are assigned to evaluate a speaker or leader.

Full version of the article