Toastmasters: Evaluate to get better

Who is supposed to be the beneficiary of a speech evaluation in Toastmasters? If you said the speaker, you would be partly right.  Don’t forget, one of the way we grow as speakers is to learn from how others speak, take their best practices, and look at where they can make improvements or changes to their speeches.

From a Toasmasters’s point of view, I routinely hear people give evaluations with zero or one possible improvement/change. One problem, some folks say they don’t feel comfortable giving improvements to speakers that they feel are more experienced. My advice is not to think of the recommendations as improvements for the speaker only, but as an opportunity to make changes that could just be different or improve the speech. Here are a couple of things I consider when I want to give suggestions for change:

1. Visual aides
– Power Point – use less. If none are used I may recommend a slide or two to illustrate a specific point (only if it could help)
– Books, Bats, Business Cards…something to hold up to go with a point or story
– Handouts – when needed or could help learning or research later

2. Use of the room
– Use space if they stood still
– Work “left to right” (audience view) when telling a chronology
– Don’t pace…be deliberate

3. Use “you” focused statements
– Avoid “how many of you have…?” questions
– When you speak to one, you speak to all. When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one
– “You’re going to learn” vs. “I’m going to tell you”

4. Opening/Closing points
– Don’t open with “fellow Toastmasters”…start with a story/quote/question, then greet the group
– Don’t finish with “thank you” – thank them, then close
– Don’t finish with a Q&A – same rule; try “before I close, I have time for 2 or 3 questions”

These are just a few ideas to help you in your evaluations of other speeches, and in your own self-evaluation. Use those opportunities to help other Toastmasters learn and grow, and be sure to apply what you learn to your own speaking. By taking a more active role in your evaluations, you’ll not only be more valuable to your club, but more valuable to yourself too…

4 comments
  1. Rob ~

    This information was very helpful. Thank you for taking time to share it with me. It will positively influence my contest experience.

    Toastmasters is all about teamwork! Every win if for the entire team.

    Sincerely,

    Tina Pitts

  2. Hi Rob,

    I’m wondering what your opinion on this question would be. How helpful would it be to have a book on “How to Give the Most Effective Evaluations?”

    • It sounds like something that could be well received by other Toastmasters, but I’m not sure of how you would show value to others. Perhaps you could include a method for other speakers to use your principles to self-evaluate? Or, have the dual method of evaluating speaking and using those principles to evaluate as a supervisor.

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