Have you ever shied away when your Vice President, Education asked you to be an evaluator?
Have you ever heard a speech and wondered – “What improvement could I possibly suggest?”
I am guilty on both counts.
The journey of an evaluator is one of the most challenging and yet rewarding experiences in Toastmasters.
You only have to analyze the speech in its entirety, provide suggestions for improvement, all the while presenting your observations in a positive and motivating manner. And did I mention you have to present all this in 3 minutes?
Can I Evaluate
If the thought “Am I qualified to be an evaluator?”, has ever crossed your mind, take a look at what Toastmasters International states as the purpose of evaluation.
Your purpose as an evaluator is to provide honest reaction in a constructive manner to the person’s efforts, using the evaluation guides provided. You are not a judge or an authority on speaking or leadership. When you evaluate, you are simply giving your own reaction to the person’s speaking or leadership efforts. An evaluation is an opinion, nothing more. (Effective Evaluations Manual Rev 6 /2011, Item 202, TI Resource Library).
We have opinions on anything and everything, don’t we?
So, the question “What improvement could I possibly suggest” can be rephrased quite simply as “In my opinion, what would I have done differently?”
The options are endless – you may have ended with a quote, you might have screamed louder watching the horror movie, you may have smiled more at your birthday scene, or you may have paused longer when you heard the sad news.
An important aspect of the purpose statement mentioned above is the word “constructive”. As an evaluator, it is pivotal to have a mindset of helping the speaker improve. People join Toastmasters to improve their speaking and leadership skills, and these skills are improved through evaluations.
When you select your suggestions and present them, focus on how you can add value to the speakers and encourage them to keep trying harder. Remember – aim not to be the star but to create a star.
As a technique to add pizzazz to your evaluations I would like to highlight the 3Ps of evaluation
The speaker has spent hours, days, even weeks preparing a project. The evaluation you provide should be thoughtfully prepared and presented.
First, every Toastmasters Pathways project comes with a clear purpose statement. As the evaluator, your responsibility is to assess how well the speaker achieved this purpose.
In addition, the evaluation sheet has a section that aids you in evaluating the various techniques employed in the speech, so use this resource to provide a comprehensive evaluation.
Every Pathways project also has extensive notes about the project which can be downloaded from basecamp. This will help you to be fully aware of the various nuances of the project.
It is a good idea to talk with the speaker beforehand. You can check if the speaker has set any specific goals for improving the speech; focus your evaluation on those aspects.
In an evaluation contest, you won’t have a manual to guide you. I like to focus on 3 key areas – what I saw, what I heard, and what I felt as the speech unfolded.
Organize and prioritize your observations. You only have 3 minutes in total to cover 3 main areas
- Positives you observed in the speech
- Specific Recommendations for improvement
- Summarizing your evaluation
Focus on the points that will add the most value to the speaker. Additional points you may have can be added to your written evaluation.
Be specific when you give recommendations. For eg; if you are recommending better facial expressions be specific as to which part of the speech you would have expressed better and how you would have done it were you delivering this speech.
Be honest in your opinion. Sugarcoating works better on donuts, not in an evaluation.
Be kind in the way you phrase your evaluation and the tone you present it in. If you put the speaker on the defensive, then your message is lost even if you mean well.
In an evaluation, you are presenting your opinion and not passing judgment. Try to avoid words like “you should”, “you must”, “never”, “always” when you present your suggestions. Starting your recommendations with phrases like “In my opinion”, “I would recommend” is a good strategy to employ.
Albeit only 3 minutes long, your evaluation speech is also a speech. Don’t forget the basics of having an opening and a closing for your evaluation to grab the audience’s attention, and end with impact.
Be innovative in your approach to presenting your evaluation because it’s the packaging of your speech that could set you apart from your peers especially if you are in an evaluation contest.
A packaging technique that I like to use is to pepper my evaluation with phrases associated with the main theme of the speech. For eg: in a speech that had football as the theme, you could use phrases like goal, scoring shot, penalty, half time, 2nd half, tiebreaker in your evaluation.
To spice up your evaluation dig deep into your repertoire of speaking skills like humour, rhetoric devices, catchphrases, expressions, gestures.
How do I improve
I believe every meeting is an opportunity for you to improve your evaluation skills. You can learn by observing other evaluators and their techniques. Even if you are not the assigned evaluator for a speaker, prepare notes and compare your observations with what the designated evaluator presents.
Volunteer to take up evaluation roles whenever an opportunity presents itself because practice makes perfect. And finally,
The skills you develop as an effective evaluator not only help other speakers to improve; they also help you fine-tune your skills as a speaker – when you practice what you preach. Evaluation skills help you become a better listener and a keen observer.
So, the next time you are up on stage providing an evaluation, remember it’s an opportunity to influence positively the journey of a speaker….Their journey and yours.
Hashim Haleem, DTMHashim Haleem, DTM, is a passionate speaker who has been a Toastmaster District Champion several times. He is also a coach and works in the IT industry.