A Toastmasters meeting has a portion dedicated to evaluating speakers, so I thought I’d dedicate a portion of my own to that very subject.
Such evaluations can range from good, to not so good.
Evaluations: Let’s talk about the good first.
Because you are focused on delivering a speech, combating nerves, etc., it’s hard to evaluate yourself while you’re speaking. And probably a terrible idea to even try.
But this is the beauty of receiving an evaluation from an actual audience member—in this case, your wise evaluator.
Your evaluator gets to turn the focus from being an entertained (or bored) spectator, to a laser guided heat-seeking missile targeted at you and your presentation—not the actual topic, but everything else from structure to delivery and even the clothes on your back.
As you deliver your speech, they are taking notes. Lots of notes—both mental and written. Then, when they are called on, they get up and deliver a 2-3 minute critique of your performance. This is a good thing...I think.
They look at things such as what they liked, what needs improvement, and suggestions for next time.
This is important stuff, which will give you things to look out for next time, and if you video recorded your speech, you can go over the tape to see exactly what the evaluator was harping about. That’s a perfect practice combo right there!
Now onto the not so good.
The evaluations you receive on your prepared speeches (typically 5-7 minute speeches) are not always helpful. Here's 2014 Champion of Public Speaking's winning speech as an example.
You put a lot of hard work into a prepared speech, practiced it, kept your fear in check to the best of your ability, and then you receive an evaluation that doesn’t tell you much.
This can be a letdown sometimes. But I get it, there are new evaluators. And it’s not that they aren’t capable of giving excellent feedback, it’s that they are learning the balance between being overly nice—“You were awesome!”—and giving constructive criticism that can actually help you improve.
Again, I completely understand because I’ve done it myself.
Let’s just say that the first speaker I ever evaluated, never returned. I’m not saying that it was one hundred percent my fault because I noticed the speaker was very tough on himself, but I certainly didn’t help with my evaluation.
I got up there, tried to follow along with the manual’s instructions (describes the speaker’s objectives and what the evaluator should look for), and just sort of gave him a mountain of nothing. It was pretty bad. Like for real.
I felt like I was walking on eggshells with my only intention being inoffensive to the speaker rather than giving solid feedback. So if you’re out there buddy, take my hand in forgiveness!
Apart from "good" or "bad" evaluations, there's something else...
There are excellent evaluations and evaluators as well. As a beginner, just about all of them will be beneficial, even the ones that dish out nothing but praise because it helps build your confidence.
However, after a while the majority of evaluations become recycled.
Much of what you hear while receiving an evaluation, giving one, and hearing others be evaluated eventually becomes repetitive and familiar to you.
This is not a knock on Toastmasters by any means. It simply illustrates why it’s so important to do your own learning, your own practicing, so that you’re not limited in your speaking potential.
I even dedicated an entire chapter in my book to the most important forms of practice for becoming a better speaker ====>
Joining a club to gain experience and to break down your fears, though, is an absolute essential. There is simply no substitute for a real life audience.
Just join a Toastmasters club already.
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About this guy...
Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life. In less than a year since, I’ve started this website, Tactical Talks, competed and won 3 separate public speaking contests, wrote a book, and spoke at one of the top universities in southern California (SDSU).
And look, I’m not telling you this to “show off.” My purpose is to show you that it’s possible to start doing the things that YOU want to do. And that’s my goal. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.