It’s that time of the year again when Toastmasters from all over the world kick into high gear in preparation for the annual Humourous and Evaluation Speech Contests.
For the uninitiated, the Evaluations in the Toastmasters simply means “giving feedback” – and for that matter, constructive feedback to contribute to the growth of its members. Whilst the act of giving feedback may sound like a no-brainer, giving an effective one is both an art and a science – and it’s a highly relevant skill which can be applied to both work and life.
Imagine your 14-year-old, highly sensitive teenager failing his/her quiz at school and you’re required to troubleshoot it lest it gets worse. Or if he/she seems to be less than concerned about their behaviour in the public eye and you need to put their actions “back on track” lest they form a habit. Same goes for motivating your subordinates at work, or getting them to improve on their productivity – evaluations require both tack and skill – and Evaluations during Toastmasters Club meetings can help you hone that!
That said, I’ve spent close to two years with the Toastmasters and I’ve been fortunate enough to gather some pretty slick strategies when it comes to delivering an effective evaluation and since the evaluation contest is right round the corner again, I guess there’s no better time for me to share some of these “secrets” used by some of the top Evaluators in District 80!
Yes, it’s taken me close to 2 years to compile and distill them, so rest assured they’re good stuff!
Here they are:
1. Be Honest but Kind
An evaluator’s a person who adds value to the listener by giving constructive feedback. The keyword here is…. PERSON.
Yes, you heard it right – PERSON – and as a person, we’ve first got to understand that we’re not perfect and we make mistakes too, so let’s not get too preoccupied with shooting the person down but focus on how affirming his/her strengths before sharing with him/her your thoughts on how he/she may improve.
Avoid whitewashing it – hiding the truth doesn’t help you or the evaluatee and if it’s any effect on you, it’s going to diminish your image as a credible speaker and your analytical ability.
2. Hedge your Opinions
Possibly one of the most overlooked aspect of evaluations is that our personal opinions does not constitute the law of speaking. Despite being more experienced as speakers and Toastmasters (simply by completing more projects than the average newcomer), our experiences does not necessarily make us right, and the use of absolute words such as “you should“, “you must” and “you failed” may not only be ineffective, they may even put our listeners on the defensive and do little to motivate them.
I was taught a long time ago that there are no absolutes in this world – and that advise has stuck with me since, especially when dealings with people are concerned. In a nutshell, there is more than one way to skin a cat – and our suggestions to speakers may not necessarily be the law of the ways.
That said, it’s only fair that we use hedging words such as “you may consider…” and “I would like to suggest…”, “perhaps…” and “could be better…” etc.
Besides endearing yourself to the audience, hedging also contributes to your aura of kindness and fosters trust and openness by breaking down personal defenses and putting your opponent at ease!
Quick note: Hedging is great when you need to give negative feedback at work and at home!
3. Be Specific
I’ve seen many evaluators attempt to bid their passage by giving pretty general comments about the speakers’ performance. To be fair, giving general comments like “your structure was great and easy to follow” does help you hit the mark, but it doesn’t help you score much points anyhow.
Think of your comments as darts on the dartboard. Each comment you make scores you a point according to its usefulness and relevance. When you are general, you hit the board. But you may not score as highly as a person who hits the bulls eye. And since time’s limited, making multiple general comments will not rank you up as highly as the person who focus on making a few, relevant and powerful observation and recommendation.
To showcase your ability to observe and be specific, take note of specific examples
4. Structure and Organization
By now, many evaluators would structure their evaluations using the “sandwich technique” – meaning that they begin by affirming the strengths of the speaker before going on to talk about the areas for improvement (ie, areas they did not do so well in), before concluding with some words of encouragement to motivate the speaker towards improving themselves and not to give up.
No problem! That’s a tried and tested technique that’s stood the test of time!
However, that structure remains very much as a general structure which leaves more room for development. Personally, I’d like to structure my evaluations using the acronyms & alliteration method to score points with my audience in terms of eloquence and ease of remembering – ie: leaving a lasting impression. Here are some examples:
Power, Preparation, Proposals for Consideration
Areas of Competence, Areas of Concern, Areas for Consideration
Strategies, Successes, Suggestions for Improvement etc…
There was once I even used the acronym of the speaker I evaluated. His name was Chinmay, and I started with the first 4 letters of his name:
Competent(What was well done)
Areas to Highlight for attention (Areas which he could work on)
INsights for development (Specific Suggestions for Improvement)
The list goes on.
Structuring (and packaging) your evaluation will in no doubt help it stand out from your competitors.
Quick tip: Be sure to limit them to three and make sure they’re relevant to what you’ve got to say in your evaluation!
5. Top Three Only
Due to the limited amount of time (3min 30s) we’ve got to present our evaluation report, it is imperative that we cut out the banter and focus on only the points that matter. For areas for improvement, identify the top three areas which you felt when addressed adequately could lead to immense improvement in the quality of the speaker’s speech or presentation.
Bonus Point: Time Management
Following up on the previous point, I’ve been taught that it’s imperative that we take note of the amount of time we allocate to the introduction when we’re setting the context of our evaluation, and when we’re preparing to wind up.
As a guide, we should be midway through our suggestions when we’re at the 2min 30s (Orange) mark and be ready to conclude just around the 3min (red) mark before we summarize the speaker’s strengths and leave him/her and the audience on a high.
Remember, time is of the essence – there is no point in giving an excellent evaluation when you run out of time!
So there you have it! 5 + 1 Tips on how to execute an effective evaluation in time for the upcoming speech contests!
Here’s wishing you the best for all contestants!
PS: Have more tips to share? Contribute your ideas by dropping us a comment in the box below! Or, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can all benefit from your insights too!
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!