Founded in 1924 in Santa Ana, California, Toastmasters is a public-speaking organization that now has almost 260,000 members in more than 12,500 clubs worldwide. Each club holds regular meetings during which members gather in small groups to critique and evaluate each other’s speech-making skills. In developing their evaluating technique, Toastmaster members can help each other become eloquent and dynamic speakers.
Before an evaluator can successfully evaluate a speaker, she must clarify the objectives of both the speech and her own evaluation. Broadly speaking, the objective of any speaker is to communicate a message to an audience. Depending on other factors, there could also be time, format, or other objectives. Evaluators must ensure that their goals correspond with those of the speaker. If the speaker emphasizes the importance of presenting within a given time limit over other elements of the speech, the evaluator must take that into consideration and be sure to give particular attention to the use of time when giving the evaluation. By clarifying objectives with the speaker before beginning the evaluation, the evaluator is in a better position to truly help the speaker.
Give Constructive Criticism
The main goal of a speech evaluation is to offer constructive criticism that will allow the speaker to improve. So as not to discourage the speaker, it is important to use positive terms and to highlight the successful aspects of the speech. At the same time, the evaluator does not want to ignore areas that need improvement. Only speaking of the positive aspects of a speech while offering little to no true feedback is not beneficial to the speaker. Evaluators who are familiar with the speaker’s past performances are better equipped to constructively criticize a speaker because they are familiar with the speaker’s style and are able to assess improvement over time.
When evaluating a speech, the evaluator must strive to remain objective when it comes to the speaker or speech topic. The evaluator’s opinion of the speaker as a person, the speaker’s physical appearance, or the topic being presented must have no bearing on how a speech is evaluated. Instead, the evaluator must remember to look beyond the topic itself to evaluate its impact on the audience and the speaker’s success in attaining pre-stated goals. Similarly, rather than giving an evaluation based on a speaker’s personality or behavior, the evaluator must focus on the content and quality of the speech.
Deliver an Organized Evaluation
Even if it offers helpful tips and comments, an evaluation cannot be truly successful if it is not delivered in an organized manner that the speaker can understand. Evaluators can maintain organization by dividing a speech into three sections in their notes: opening, body, and conclusion. Including both commendations for successful aspects of the speech and recommendations for improvement, each section must be concise and written in clear language that includes specific examples when possible. In creating the evaluation, the evaluator must consider what advice would be helpful if the speaker had to deliver the same speech again.
Nina Dubois has been a published writer since 2004. She has written features for the global anti-poverty agency ActionAid International, Stanford University's "The Real News" and a host of other publications. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University where she majored in anthropology and political science.