#Toastmasters Evaluation Contest—5 Mistakes to Avoid

For those that are wondering what this post is about, 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.   Although the speech itself is typically from 5-7 minutes long, the evaluator has 2-3 minutes to give his or her evaluation.

Alfred Herzing, a past International President of Toastmasters International has taught those of us in his home club at Yorba Linda Achievers here in Orange County, CA, about the art of making an effective evaluation.   Yesterday’s post was designed on what he has taught us through the years.  However, as I was thinking about yesterday’s post, I realized in anticipation of our own Area Contest coming up tomorrow that there were a few pointers I forgot to mention about what NOT to do.   These are typically things that beginners do, and avoiding these mistakes will bring you to the next level.  I hope contestants in the Evaluation Contest will be able to utilize them to improve their evaluations.

1. No gratitude

Although this is a natural thing for beginners to want to do, you should not start or end your evaluation speech by thanking the Contestmaster.  (This principle also goes for any type of Toastmasters speech.)   This is not the Oscars, this is Toastmasters.   Instead you can just address the audience by saying, “Mr. (or Madam) Contestmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and welcome guests,”  and then start into your speech. You can signal that you done with your speech by just signaling with your hand or a bow of your head towards the Contestmaster and saying, “Mr. (or Madam) Contestmaster.”

2. No platitude

Praise and criticism is what evaluation is about, but it is SPECIFIC praise that is called for that points to an example to illustrate it. “I thought you did a wonderful speech” may be nice for the speaker to hear, but it is not an evaluation. Does it convey any information to the speaker about WHAT was good about the speech, so they know how to do it again? Of course, you CAN say that your thought the speech was moving or effective, or whatever, as long as you immediately go into WHY you thought it was so.

Also, closing with “I look forward to hearing your future speeches” belongs in the Toastmasters cliché file and should be avoided.

3. No rehashing

Many people fill in the body of the speech by doing a summary of what was said in the speech. Okay, the audience was there, and they probably remember the words of the speech too.   But you are not there to recount what was said, but to show how the speaker conveyed the message.  You can state the objective of the speech as you saw it, and in fact I recommend this as the first part of your evaluation, but saying, “so-and-so told us the story of …” is not being an evaluator, it’s being a reporter.

4. No low-hanging fruit

What I mean by this phrase is to not pick on the most obvious strong point or point to be improved upon. For example, most speakers will be a little bit nervous, so giving an evaluation that tells the speaker that you thought they were nervous is stating something a little obvious. I have always been impressed with an evaluation that picked up something that either I missed or that I heard, but didn’t register as being important. It shows that the person is picking an element of the speech to either praise or criticize that is original. It will probably be something that most evaluators do not pick up on, and being relatively rare, is therefore more valuable an observation for the person giving the speech. So if you state a couple of things in your notes that you thought were impressive or that you thought needed improving, then pick the one that you think is the most original or unusual observation.

5. No proclamations

What I mean is that you are there to evaluate and explain your point of view. When it comes time to state your criticism, do not say a broad statement as if it is a fact.   This is your opinion, and should be stated as such. “I felt that,” or even “in my opinion,” is important in prefacing a criticism.

This principle, however, works for the praise as well.  Again, saying it was a great speech sounds like an evaluation, but conveys little to the speaker in terms of WHAT was great about it.   However, if you say, “your speech was effective for me“or “I was really moved by your speech,” and follow it immediately by an explanation of what it was in their delivery that caused this reaction, then you have an effective technique of evaluation.  Remember, the whole purpose of the test speaker’s speech is so that his or her purpose is conveyed to the listener, and by reminding the speaker that you as the listener did get that message, you are giving valuable information as well as illustrating ultimately what public speaking is all about.

I hope that these tips will help those in the Evaluation Speech contests that are going on in many Toastmasters Clubs around the world this fall.   I give a shout out to those in Division D (my home club) and Division C (my second club) here in Orange County, CA.

Let the evaluations begin!

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