The speech evaluator role at the Toastmasters meeting is one the most critical and underrated roles available. Not only is this role essential for helping the speaker improve, but this role also is a great opportunity for the evaluator to practice some semi-impromptu speaking, learn how to balance encouraging and constructive feedback, and be a leader among the group.
How can you make the most of your speech evaluation? Here are 22 tips for giving effective feedback.
1. Read about the speech project - understand the objectives of the speech so you know what to watch out for
2. Read the evaluation guide for the speech project - each speech project has a related evaluation guide in the Competent Communicator book; review the evaluation criteria so you know the outline for your written evaluation and guideline for your verbal evaluation
3. Ask the speaker what they're working on - aside from the objectives of the specific speech project, the speaker may be trying to work on something else (body language, use of notes, etc.) - check with the speaker ahead of the meeting to see if there's anything specific they'd like you to touch on in your evaluation
4. Collect the speaker's Competent Communicator book - before the meeting, make sure you have the speaker's book so you can provide their written evaluation
5. Be aware of past evaluations - remember back to the speaker's previous speeches and evaluations so as to touch on their overall progress and to not duplicate past feedback
6. Focus - while the speaker is presenting, don't let your mind wander and don't get too wrapped up in writing your notes so that you can take in as much of the speech as possible
7. Take notes - take a few notes so you can remember points you want to touch on and flush out once the speech is complete
8. Note the details - it's great to reference some of the details - for example, if there were some fantastic phrases, write those down, if there was a repetitive movement, note that as well - it helps to share specifics with the speaker so they know exactly what worked and what didn't
PRO TIP: As you take notes, start to organize them. For example, write the things-the-speaker-does-well on the left side of the paper and the things-the-speaker-should-work-on on the right side. This makes it easier to organize your evaluation once the speaker has finished.
9. Complete the written evaluation - using the guide, note how the speaker did on each evaluation criteria (though no need to comment on each point)
10. Choose what to cover in your verbal evaluation - you will not have a chance to cover everything, so pick the most important elements to discuss
11. Start with something encouraging - open your evaluation with something encouraging to set a positive, constructive tone
12. Evaluate those elements within the control of the speaker - everything you suggest for improvement should be within the control of the speaker
13. Be honest - about those elements that you enjoyed and those that you did not
14. Make it personal - share how the speech affected you, what you appreciated most from the speech
15. Be specific - for example, instead of saying "the organization of the speech was great," say, "the way you outlined the three sections in your introduction helped me understand and follow the organization of the speech"
16. Offer specific suggestions for improvement - for example, instead of saying "your arm waving was distracting, you should watch out for that," say, "your arm waving was distracting, try putting your hands by your side and using your body movement intentionally during parts of your speech where you want extra emphasis"
17. Use "and" rather than "but" - anytime you use "but" in a sentence, it negates what you just said; for example, "the organization of your speech was great, but you lost me at the end" makes me forget that you had something positive to say and makes me focus on the negative portion at the end; instead try something like, "the organization of your speech was great in your introduction, and I would have loved to see more of that throughout your speech"
18. Speak on behalf of yourself - your evaluation is your opinion, so limit your feedback to "I" rather than "we" or "the audience"
19. Act like a friend - use a friendly, non-threatening, non-judgmental tone; look at the speaker; smile -- the speaker will be that much more receptive to your feedback
20. End on a encouraging note - your goal is to have the speaker motivated to do their next speech, leveraging your feedback - you can re-emphasize the part of the speech you enjoyed the most or simply congratulate them on completing their speech
21. Follow up with the speaker - speak with them face-to-face after the meeting to congratulate them again, make sure they did not misinterpret any part of your evaluation, and return their Competent Communicator book
22. Don't wait to be the evaluator to give feedback - the more feedback a speaker gets, the better, so feel free to follow up with speakers after a meeting to share your thoughts on their speech
Want to read more? Check out Effective Evaluation, a guide from Toastmasters.org