The thing about evaluations is that you evaluate everyday. You evaluate things, people and your own performances. Evaluation is a form of constructive feedback and it needs to include a predominance of positives, or strengths, as well as areas for improvement. It’s the same with speech evaluations. Note that evaluating is not judging, coaching or criticising. It’s constructive feedback. And even then, it’s only your opinion. The techniques you’ll learn in this blog, works. Especially when my wife wants me to do something. This stuff is so powerful, that it will help you deal with your colleagues, your family and your partners. It’s the reason why it is considered the corner stone of Toastmasters.
Most of the information you’ll find in this blog is devised to help Toastmasters’ members become better evaluators and to help members become better speakers. However, you will also find, how it can impact your daily life; with examples provided. Check it out.
I love Lance Miller’s quote, “If you want to become a better speaker, become a better evaluator.” The main reason for this is that evaluating gets you to focus on what works and what doesn’t work, at least from your perspective. Evaluating a speaker’s speech is not an easy task, especially when you are a man like me. This is because it requires multitasking. That is, you need to listen, analyse and write, all at the same time. And when that’s done, you need to select your key points, structure your response and present a semi-impromptu speech. As I said, “No mean task. But help is on its way.
The most important thing to remember about an evaluation is that it’s a mini-speech. That is, it needs structure. It needs an introduction, a body and a conclusion. And you need to be aware that, basically, you only have three minutes to deliver the evaluation. So be succinct.
For the introduction, I normally choose to acknowledge the MC, the audience and the speaker in a positive way. I will then refer to the type of speech I though it was, like informative and inspirational and then say something positive about the general nature of the speech.
The body structure is normally in the form of Praise, Improvement and Praise, represented by the acronym PIP. CRC is the other acronym, which stands for Commendation, Recommendation and Commendation. Both are described as the “Sandwich Method” because the recommendation is sandwiched between the praise. However, I also like to refer to it as the “Sugar-coated pill” because sometimes, the bitter truth is easier to swallow when it’s sugar-coated. The PIP or CRC structure can be further broken down and organised into two commendations, two recommendation and one top commendation to finish up with. This means that you’ll finish the body part of the evaluation on an upbeat, positive, high note. Be aware, that five points are all you’ll have time for in three minutes if you want to do them justice.
Along with your recommendations,
I believe that the summary is one of the most important parts of the evaluation. It’s the gift for the speaker and the audience. It’s the main points in a nutshell. It’s the takeaway message, the take-home gift all wrapped up with a pretty ribbon around it. The points you elaborated on in the body, is for clarity and understanding. The summary is the summary. That is a brief recap of what you’ve already said. So please, resist the temptation to introduce new material, or a forgotten point or points, into your summary. It just confuses everybody.
This should be something unique and relevant to the speaker and about the speech or topic. I never sweat this part, as improv has taught me to trust my brain. And please, Pretty Please!!!, can I ask you not to use, the so often, overused line, “And I look forward to your next speech.” Be original.
Dos & Don’ts
Dos – What? Where? Why? & How?
The What, is the point you’re going to make.
The Where, is an example of where it occurred. This can simply be quoting a line from the speech where it occurred. This provides clarity and understanding. Although, sometimes you don’t quite hear the exact line, or didn’t note the line. My recommendation is to keep your ears tuned for the next occasion where your point occurs and use that line as the example.
The Why, is the reason you thought a particular aspect of the speech was done well or why you thought something could have been improved upon. For example, you could say “I thought that was well done…” and finishing off with the Why, “…because it helped you connect with that part of the audience”. This can be very helpful, making your commendation clearer, more meaningful and help everybody understand your reasoning. Similarly, “At times you were moving backwards and forwards repeatedly, I recommend that you “Stand and Deliver” instead. Then include the Why, “I think this will be more powerful and less distracting”. This gives the speaker and listeners a clear reason behind your recommendation. Thatis, the why.
The How is demonstrating how you think the speaker could have done it better.
I think the secret is to ask yourself that very question, “How could the speaker have done this better?” and then answer that question and show us how you think it could have been done better. Mind you, this requires some effort and an analytical frame of mind.
- Be empathetic, sympathetic, positive, supportive, helpful, encouraging and motivational. The idea is to motivate the speaker to want to get back up on that stage as soon as possible and be eager to do better next time.
- Find out what the manual & the speaker’s objectives are and incorporate them into your evaluation.
- Check with the speaker if they have any extra aspects they would like you to concentrate on.
- Use more specific words, instead of generic words like good, great, excellent and fantastic. You’ll find better words when you apply the “Why?” Instead of good, you’ll be using words like clever, improved and relevant.
- Remember to evaluate the speech and the delivery, not the speaker or their message. Whether you agree or disagree with their message is irrelevant.
The Whitewash is Mush. The whitewash is when your feedback is all very positive, very sweet but vague. It leaves the speaker feeling great, however, there is nothing specific, no content or take away for the speaker or the audience. Usually what’s lacking is some in-depth analysis. Sometimes the evaluator will flatter the speaker, in lieu of not having a recommendation. If you can’t think of a recommendation, my suggestion is to ask yourself the following question, “Would that speech and that presentation win the World Championship of Public Speaking?” If not, why not? The answer to that question is your recommendation. The other aspect that is a mild form of the whitewash, is apologising before or watering down your recommendation. There’s no need. It detracts from the effectiveness of the recommendation, one of the most important parts of the evaluation. If you preface recommendations with “It’s only a small thing”, your nitpicking. Don’t, instead find something meaningful to recommend and it will be less of a whitewash.
Trash the Mishmash. The Mishmash is
basically a whole lot of blah, blah,
blah. It’s also when your evaluation lacks structure. When you give your Praise, Improvement and then go into your Summary, well, that’s PIS. Not a nice acronym. Often evaluators plan to use PIP, however, because they only have three minutes, they get to PI and realise that they’re almost out of time and squeeze in the summary. Also when it’s PIPI , it feels like it’s all over the place like a dogs dinner. It just wrecks the structure and confuses everyone. Similarly, when presenting the summary, resist the temptation to slip in a new point or an forgotten point, for the same reason. Stick with the PIP, be succinct to leave time for the gift, the summary. The other aspect is to make your points clearly, succinctly and without repetition. It’s better to finish early, as opposed to padding the evaluation with repetitions. The adage I like is, “If it doesn’t add, it detracts”.
Slash the Rehash. Often evaluators, for lack of substance, will tell you, at length, what the speaker has been talking about. When that happens I’m thinking, “Heard it!” and the speaker certainly knows it. It adds nothing to the evaluation. Mind you, as mentioned above, it’s fine to quote a line from the speech for clarification and understanding. But what I think is even worse, is when the evaluator is triggered to start sharing a similar personal story. Relevant or not, if it offers nothing useful for the speaker or the audience, it detracts. Besides, you only have 3 minutes.
Preparation & Practice
Many Toastmasters say that you can’t prepare for an evaluation. Well, I disagree. You can prepare by downloading YouTube videos of Toastmasters’ CC 8 to CC 10 speeches and evaluate them in the comfort of your own home. You can time yourself for both the five-minute preparation time and the three-minute delivery time, as you deliver the evaluation to your family or friends. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. When you do this a number of times, you’ll find you’ll soon get the idea of how succinct you need to be to not to go over the three-minute mark. Many evaluators run out of time for the summary, the gift, or find themselves squeezing it in at the end, and it shows. By the way, this includes me. After you put in the effort of evaluating many speeches like this, you almost won’t need to look at the timing lights. However, I suggest you do. Not only that, with this kind of practice, you’ll be amazed at how many appropriate phrases you’ll collect. This expanded evaluation vocabulary will help you deliver more succinctly and provide clarity to your listeners. Another way of getting more practice in is to put your hand up when there is an evaluation spot to be filled at your club. Alternatively, ask for an evaluation spot at other local clubs that are struggling for members.
During the speech
As mention previously, during the speech you’ll be multitasking. You’ll be listening, analysing and writing all at the same time. Try to listen while writing, so you get the gist of the speech as a whole. That is the main points and structure of the speech. Try to concentrate on the big issue items for your commendations and recommendations. That is, don’t nitpick and write everything down. You need no more than 4-5 commendations and 3-4 recommendations to choose from and an example for each. Make sure you’re focusing on both commendations and recommendations simultaneously.
After the speech
In a Toastmasters evaluation contests, after the speaker has finished speaking, you’ll only have five minutes to organise your notes. You will need to put together the evaluation you’re going to present.
My recommended structure is outlined above. While you are no longer able to use pre-prepared evaluation forms at contests (???), please find my Evaluation Form and my Evaluation Form with Instructions I designed to improve your club evaluations and which might be helpful in understanding the format I recommend. For evaluation contests, I quickly arrange my page as Evaluations Contest Notes structure. Also, please find a link to my General Evaluator Form as well. My further preparation suggestions for the General Evaluator are as below.
Point Selection & Keywords
- After the speech, go through all your points you’ve written down and select your top commendation. Then note this point below your existing notes or on a new page, using a keyword. This is your fifth point. Ok, what is a keyword I hear you ask? Well, let’s say the speaker spoke with passion, had great eye contact and really engaged with the audience. My keyword would be, “CONNECTION”. I would then note a line from the speech that I’ve recorded and a few reminder words or phrases for that point to the left of the keyword. Similarly, I would choose my other two commendations and two recommendations and apply the same strategy. Always keep in mind the PIP structure. Try to choose your points to match the speaker’s capability. And choose major points to avoid points that are just nitpicking.
When the evaluation is a Toastmasters evaluation contest, I recommend that you spent your waiting time memorising your keywords and the example lines you’re going quote. The advantage in remembering these are that you will be able to minimise the use of your notes or even present without your notes. While this is not essential, and I don’t recommend it when you’re the first evaluator of the block, it can give you an edge. It gives you more time to present, it makes for a smoother presentation and maintains the connection with the audience. Remember, an evaluation is still a speech. The other advantage of memorising your keywords or key points is that you will be able to practice delivering it while waiting for your turn to present. This practice allows you to discover better phrases and more fluent and succinct ways to get your points across without repetition. It will sound like you’re presenting a prepared speech because you are. As an aside, when you do use your notes, step towards the lectern, read your notes without speaking, move away from the lectern and then speak. It will come across as a more professional delivery.
One last thing; check out the judge’s evaluation contest ballot. It will give you a pretty good idea what they’re looking for and what elements make for a good evaluation.
An evaluation is a mini semi-impromptu speech. Many of the aspects raised in my other blogs are relevant. Apart from being a speech, I also see it as a tutorial for the audience as well. That’s why I’ll address the audience as well as the speaker.
If you are a Toastmaster, you will know that everything is evaluated and that anything that is not already evaluated, like the evaluators, gets evaluated by the General Evaluator (GE). Whew, managed to squeeze in two “evaluators” and three “evaluated” into the one sentence. No! No one evaluates the General Evaluator. They already know how good they are 🙂 Being the GE is not an easy task, as there is a lot to evaluate and you only get seven to eight minutes. So you need to concentrate on what matters, without nitpicking and trying to include everything. As the General Evaluator, only evaluate what has not been evaluated. Don’t comment on or evaluate the speeches, that’s already been taken care off. However, some people just can’t resist. Click here for a General Evaluator Form that I have designed that might help you stay focused, clear, succinct and make sure you include recommendations for those you’ve chosen to evaluate.
Only Your Opinion
Let me repeat, just like my posts, a speech evaluation is only your opinion. Maybe you’re a professional speaker, a speaking coach or a world champion, your feedback should still be presented as your opinion. The way to do this is by prefacing your commendations and recommendations with phrases such as, “I feel that…” or, “I think that…” or even, “I would like to challenge you to…” It’s the only time your I/YOU ratio should be larger than your YOU/I ratio. The other aspect touched on earlier was that you should evaluate the speech and the delivery, not the speaker or the message.
I did promise at the very start, to let you know how evaluation techniques can have an impact in your daily life; with examples. Well, I mentioned that my wife uses it very well on me. This is partly because she was a teacher. When she want’s me to do something, she says, “Henk, I really appreciate you doing the vacuum cleaning once a week, but can you please also sort out your paperwork on the kitchen table. I know you did it last week and I really appreciate that I did not have to nudge you to do that.” See the pattern? It’s the classic PIP technique at work.
Generally speaking, we need to realise that everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and that we all have our issues. With that in mind, we can approach people more positively when we need something done. My former boss had no problem letting me know when I did something wrong. When I pointed this out to him by saying, “John, you’re always criticising me, why don’t you praise me once in a while?” His reply was, “You know when you do it right!” I said, “Jeez, I also know when I’ve done something wrong, but that doesn’t seem to stop you.” As an aside, the things that I have found about organisation run by volunteers is that the way we treat volunteers is exactly the way we should treat everybody else, even if you have the authority to do otherwise.
Speak to Connect, to make a difference.