Evaluate to motivate
Evaluation is a major part of a members toastmasters experience. It is a great honor to be an evaluator. Being an evaluator is a responsibility and doing it right is essential for the club to be successful. Evaluations improve our listening and impromptu skills and provide learning opportunities for everyone in the meeting. Raise your hand if you have had evaluations that have had a major impact on your speaking? Raise a hand if you have had underwhelming evaluations where you would desired more feedback. The successful club series at toastmasters wants to reduce the instances of underwhelming evaluations by providing tips for evaluators to be successful. This talk is not about how to win the evaluation contest. This talk is about ensuring that the speaker wins from the evaluation offered.
Lets talk about what the speaker is looking for an in evaluation. One - Immediate feedback. The speech is still fresh. Reinforce what the speaker did well and assist in finding areas of improvement. Two, offer methods of improvement. The speaker is looking for a new perspective, a fresh take on the topic. If you have seen or had round robin evaluations at our club, you would know would have seen how much alternative options can help improving the speech. Three - confidence. It takes a lot to come up here and speech. Don’t scare the speaker away. If the evaluator can pick up improvements from the previous speech it would do wonders.
Next, let talk about style. Toastmasters recommends the tell and sell approach. A to and fro conversation can go off topic or can land into an argument. The one way feedback is the best way to pack maximum feedback in limited time. Toastmasters also recommends new members to have had some experience of being evaluated before they take the role.
Lets get into the meat of the matter. There are three parts to an evaluation. Before the speech. Talk to the speaker to get the objectives, what he or she is looking wants feedback on, and the concerns about the speech if any. During the speech be genuine. The speakers hate evaluators who are lost and not listening. Best evaluators I have had looking at me and not their phones. Their notes were phrases and not sentences. Another important thing to do is to put yourself in speakers shoes. If the speaker is finding it difficult to stay poised, don’t suggest hand gestures or stage movement. Being comfortable on stage comes first. Hiding behind the lectern is OK. Take short notes more like flash cards as you will forget everything by the evaluation session otherwise.
During the evaluation session, the most important thing is to not cause a fight. The blame game does not belong in toastmasters. Words like “you did this and did not do this hurt”. Better to say “I think, believe or felt”. The toastmasters mantra is to focus on three senses - what I saw, heard and felt during the speech. The speaker has specific goals for the speech and our focus should be those. We need to make sure to measure the calm and confidence of the speaker on the stage and then give feedback based on the speaker’s comfort level. We need to make sure the speaker books for the next speech. The appreciation needs to be honest and insightful. There should be positive reinforcement and the closing remarks should always be upbeat and positive.
A feedback that is all praise is useless. While it is important to be positive and encouraging, the evaluators who cover up flaws are doing the member and club a disservice. I know I’m bad at vocal variety. Give me one specific example from my speech where I could have spoken differently rather than not mentioning that it needs to improve or not talking about vocal variety at all.
The closing of an evaluation should tie to the opening. Evaluations are for motivation as well as for feedback. It should summarize the key points. Know the objectives before the speech, be sincere during the presentation and be honest and motivating during the evaluation session. Avoid pumping boilerplate text. An instance from the current speech or your personal experience is helpful. An evaluation is for everyone. The next time we have a evaluation based talk, I hope to see less number of people rasing their hands at underwhelming evaluations. Thank you.