The main responsibilities of an Evaluator are:
- To read out the objectives for the speech if/when prompted by the Toastmaster
- To make notes during the speech and prepare their evaluation
- To deliver the evaluation itself within the time allowed (usually 2-3 minutes)
Prior to the meeting
Familiarise yourself with the speech project
Find out who you are evaluating and which speech project they will be delivering.
Make sure you are familiar with that project by reading the appropriate section from the Competent Communicator’s manual – in particular the Evaluation Guide page which tells you what to look out for and includes sections for you to complete afterwards.
Upon arrival at the meeting
Introduce yourself to the speaker
Locate the speaker before the start of the meeting and introduce yourself. Ask for their Competent Communicator manual so that you can complete it after the meeting.
Also ask if there are any areas – in addition to those covered by the speech objectives – that they would like you to pay particular attention to.
For example, they might want you to look out for “umms” and “ahhs” because this is something that was highlighted in a previous evaluation.
During the meeting
Listen carefully to the speaker’s presentation, keeping the objectives of the speech project clearly in mind.
Keep your notes brief and to the point. Remember, you are not trying to produce a complete summary of the speech – simply to pick out specific points that you might include in your evaluation. Do not become so engrossed in your notes that you end up missing much of the speech!
Some evaluators find it helpful to split their rough notes into categories covering different elements of speech.
One popular version is:
- What I saw (body language, eye contact, use of the stage, etc.)
- What I heard (content, pace, vocal variety, etc.)
- What I felt (emotions inspired by the speech)
Another approach is: Content, Structure, Delivery.
Prepare your evaluation
After the speech – but before you are required to give your evaluation – there will be some time to structure and rewrite your rough notes. Usually this will be in the break between the first and second half of the meeting.
Deliver your evaluation
It is customary to begin your evaluation with an introduction which reminds us that the focus is on the speaker, for example:
Mr Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, welcome guests and most importantly John…”
If the objectives have not already been read out, remind the audience very briefly of these and mention anything else that the speaker asked you to look out for.
The recommended structure for evaluations is the “sandwich” approach, where recommendations (i.e. suggestions for areas to improve) are sandwiched between commendations (i.e. positive comments).
In a nutshell, start on a very positive note highlighting those areas you thought worked well; then discuss aspects which didn’t work so well (and why) together with your recommendations; then finish on a big positive point to end things on a high.
If you choose a different organisation for your evaluation, for example dealing with “content”, “structure” and “delivery” separately, then try to use the sandwich method within each section for packaging any recommendations.
In your summary, try to link back to the speech objectives and say to what extent you felt the speaker met the objectives.
How to address the speaker
Throughout your evaluation the preferred way of addressing the speaker is in the third person – this helps the whole audience to feel engaged.
For example, addressing the room as a whole you might say “I thought John used humour very effectively”. This is better than addressing John directly with “I thought you used humour very effectively”.
How to phrase your feedback
Make your comments personal (to you) and specific (to the speech). For example: “When Peter spoke about his train journey the description was so vivid I felt as though I was sitting right next to him!”
When making recommendations it is best to focus on what could be done in future to improve rather than criticising what was done in the past.
So instead of “John should have paused more” you could say “I would invite John to make more use of pauses in future”.
And rather than “Susan didn’t look at the audience enough” you could say “I would encourage Susan to work on her eye contact in her next speech”.
After the meeting
Complete the Evaluation Guide
It is your responsibility to complete the evaluation guide for the relevant speech project in the speakers Compentent Communicator manual.
Once you have done this hand the manual back and make some time to discuss your evaluation with the speaker. Do they have any questions?