#Toastmasters Speech Evaluation Contest—10 Tips towards a Better Evaluation

A Toastmasters Speech Evaluation Contest is where there is a test speaker who gives a speech, and those entered in the contest all do an evaluation based on that speech.

Alfred Herzing, a past International President of Toastmasters International has taught us in his home club at Yorba Linda Achievers here in Orange County, CA, about the art of making an effective evaluation.   Here is what I have learned from him; I thought I would write this post to pass on what I have learned to those who are going to be in the Toastmasters Speech Evaluation Contest.   Please be aware that this is my interpretation of what I have learned; I am responsible for the contents of this post and any errors or omissions rest on my shoulders, not on Alfred’s.

1. It’s Half-Time!

This means you have a little less than half the time, i.e., 2-3 minutes, to deliver a speech compared to the person who did the speech. You will probably have enough material for a 5-7 minute speech yourself, but you will have to pare down your speech from your notes. You should include

  • An introduction,
  • a statement of the objective (whether stated or not)
  • a statement of praise on how the message was effectively delivered
  • a statement of constructive criticism showing how the message could be how the message could have been more effectively delivered by using an example.
  • A conclusion

Here are the elements of the evaluation speech:

2. Introduction—Acknowledge, but no thanks

You should greet those in the audience by saying, “Mr. or Madam Contestmaster, Fellow Toastmasters, and guests”. You don’t need to say “thank you” as many people do.

3. Objective—What do you think the speaker was trying to convey?

In a manual speech, the objectives are stated, usually by the Toastmaster before the speech begins. In the contest speech, they are not explicitly stated by the Contestmaster. Sometimes people will state their intentions at the beginning of the speech, but they may not. If they don’t, try to discern what the message of the speech was and start your speech with this objective.

4. Praise—be specific

You should give praise or encouragement to the speaker for how effectively they conveyed the message of the objective. But praise should not be open-ended: “you gave a great speech” doesn’t give any information on the speaker about what it was that caused you to come to that conclusion. “I really think you accomplished this objective because of what you did …”, and then explain specifically what it was that caused you think this way.

5. Constructive criticism—be specific

No matter how experienced the speaker, there is always room to improve, and even the most seasoned Distinguished Toastmaster will welcome criticism if it is specific because it is therefore helpful. “The ending was weak” is not specific: weak compared to what? What made it weak? More importantly, how could it be made stronger?

6. Conclusion—tie things up

So many evaluations end when the person sees the red card and then decides to hurriedly dash off something generic like “I think it was a great speech”. The conclusion should start when the person sees the yellow card, if not before. That means you have 30 seconds left. Then you can summarize, and say, “The speaker met the objectives because of [specific actions], but would have been even more effective if [specific actions]. Then add some praise at the end that puts a positive cast on the evaluation. This last one can be more general. Then you can say “Mr. or Madam Contestmaster” to signal that you are concluded with your evaluation.

Here are some more general tips regarding things that will be helpful to you in getting a good score for your evaluation speech.

7. Avoid the stock phrases

Of course, saying “thank you” in your introduction is one think that beginners do, but at the end of the speech, “and I look forward to your future speeches” is something that you may have heard many times before. Why not deliver the same message, that you are encouraging the speaker, in a way that is heartfelt and not pulled off the shelf?   Also, there may be a significant element of the speech delivery that is overlooked by others.   Why not try to be original and find something which the other evaluators may have missed?

8. Objective criteria, subjective delivery

You make sure that you have some sort of an objective against which you are measuring the speech.  However, in delivering your opinion, you should make sure to let the speaker know that this is your opinion, particularly when it comes to criticism.  If the person did not state an objective, and you say what you think the opinion is, make sure to preface your remarks by saying that “I think that …” or “in my opinion”, because it could be that what you think as the objective may not be at all what the speaker intended.   This goes as well for the praise and criticism. The praise needs to be personal because it shows that the speech made a human connection with the evaluator. The criticism needs to be stated as being your own personal opinion so that you are not making the presumption that your criticism is a FACT, but an opinion. It is easier for people to take criticism if the person prefaces it as being something that is his or her opinion.

9. Your speech evaluation is also a speech

You should have an opening which states the objective, a body which gives both praise and criticism, and then a conclusion which summarizes what you have said. These show that you are not just speaking off a list of talking points but have crafted your message in a way that commands the attention of the audience, and you have made it memorable by tying it with a bow at the end in your conclusion.

10. Your speech is for the benefit of the audience, not just the speaker

I have seen evaluators look at the entire time at the speaker, thinking the speech is for them. Well it is, but it is for the benefit of the audience as well. Looking at the speaker when you start your speech is fine, but include the audience in your gaze when you are explaining what it was that made the speech effective and what you thought could be improved. Everybody in the audience can learn from the pointers you give, and you should include them in your attention when you give the speech.

Those are the principles that have been taught to me in my home club. I hope they are helpful for those who are planning to be in the Speech Evaluations Contest this fall.

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