The purpose of an evaluation is to give feedback to a speaker that will have the effect of:
- Encouraging them to work on improving their presentation skills
- Helping them to improve their presentation skills.
Australian Toastmasters have developed a very effective structure for evaluations.
It is a sandwich of Commend | Recommend | Commend – the CRC.
Recommendations for improvement are wrapped between Commendations for existing skills.
This style is based on educational research which has established that negative feedback is a very ineffective way of changing human behaviour. Clear explanations and demonstrations of proposed changes followed by praise for improvement, no matter how slight, and encouragement to keep trying, is the most effective style to facilitate change in behaviour.
I have developed an EvaluationProForma which will help you in your Evaluations. It is meant as a helpful guide, not a requirement.
Praise and Encouragement
We use positive feedback at all times.
We identify skills which the speaker already has which can be used again
We recommend ways to improve existing skills
We recommend ways to overcome current weaknesses
We do not give negative feedback in any way.
We do not identify errors. We look for opportunities for improvement.
We do not use negative words or phrases like “criticism” or “error” or “pick on”.
The most effective help is identifying current skills which can be enhanced.
Recommend improvements which can be made in current skills
Recommend changes to current practices which will lead to improvement
Explain why you are making the recommendation
Explain and demonstrate how to make the change being recommended.
The importance of recommendations for all speakers
Most Toastmasters come to meetings to work on improving their speaking skills. They are looking for ways to improve their skills. This includes the very experienced, and very skilful speakers.
It may give a brief, warm glow for a speaker to hear that the evaluator has no recommendations for improvement, but it won’t help him or her to improve.
Be courageous. Make a recommendation for improvement to the very best speakers, as well as the ones you think of as the others. Express it as your personal opinion, but don’t devalue it by apologising. The very skilful speakers will be very grateful for your personal insight.
Exclude from your evaluations expressions like “I can find no recommendations for this speaker.”
If all else fails, use this formula: “I recommend that all the members learn from the way Mary (John) … ” and then give a very specific analysis of some particularly effective technique used by the speaker. Your analysis may clarify an important matter of technique for the speaker.
Give a brief summary at the end
It is good practice to model the standard speech structure of beginning, middle and end. A concluding summary helps members understand your points in the context of the CRC.
Keep your strongest commendation for the final one
In Western Australia we have developed a particular form of the CRC. It is not proposed to be inflexible, but gives a guide to achieving an effective balance.
Start with several commendations – probably three.
Give two recommendations.
End with the strongest commendation you can find for the speaker.
You can look at a very simple EvaluationProForma which may help you clarify the structure and important things to look for.
A very simple, stripped down example
Congratulations on your Icebreaker speech, John. You showed yourself to be a vital, interesting person who will be an asset to our club.
I commend you for your strong voice. We have a slight problem here with background noise, but you have the power to be heard in very noisy environments.
I recommend that you work on your articulation, your speaking clarity. You can do this in two different ways. Speak slower, which will give listeners more time to hear each word. [Speak quite slowly while delivering this sentence.] Avoid slurring or blurring your words by using your lips and tongue to articulate the consonants clearly. [Demonstrate this style in a slightly exaggerated manner while delivering this sentence, slurring the words “slurring and blurring” with unmoving lips, and then very clearly articulating the rest of the sentence.]
My final commendation is for your speech structure. It was very effective that you referred again to your introduction at the end. It gave a rounded, completed feeling to your speech and showed clearly that you had prepared it carefully.
So, I commended you first for your strong voice, and recommended that you improve your delivery by speaking slower and with clearer articulation. My final commendation dealt with your clear structure. Welcome to our club.
An extended example which would take about 3 minutes to deliver
Thank you for your speech, Mary. You are developing very rapidly in your presentation skills and you have already reached a very acceptable, even admirable standard of delivery.
Project 5 is concentrating on vocal variety. You certainly were successful in your work on vocal variety.
I commend you for the variety you achieved with your voice, which fascinated us with its melodious variety in pitch as you used those lighter, higher sounds [Demonstrate higher pitch range] and contrasted them with deeper, solemn tones [Demonstrate lower pitch range]. You used the different tones appropriately for the content at the time. Congratulations.
I commend you for your variety in speaking speed. Your normal speed was steady and slow, which helps with clarity of articulation. You varied that at times with quicker passages, and once, very effectively, when you were speaking about your immediate feelings after the accident, with a very very slow, measured delivery. That was dramatic, and grabbed everybody’s intense concentration.
I commend you for your speech construction. You had a clear introduction, explaining what you wanted to do. The body of the speech dealt with the three points you announced. And the conclusion neatly tied them all together, and restated your purpose with the speech. The clear, simple structure was a great aid for me as a listener in understanding your argument and being persuaded by it. I am certainly going to obey the speed limits around my suburb.
I have two recommendations for you to work on. Firstly, I think you can use dramatic silences to give greater weight to particularly important statements. An extended … pause [Demonstrate a long pause before the word “pause”] before a particular word or phrase will give great emphasis to it. And it can work well after an important … word, too. [Pause after “important”]. Try both next time you speak. I think you will find it effective.
Secondly, I recommend that you work on your stance and movement. You have a tendency occasionally to wander around in what appears to be an aimless, unplanned way. I recommend that you practise standing quite still, in a balanced, relaxed manner like this. [Demonstrate the stance.] Do that for a whole speech. Then when you can do that instinctively, introduce planned movement, which will reinforce and enhance your content.
My final commendation is for your animated facial expressions. You smiled a lot. You frowned. You looked worried. You looked fearful. The expressions were always appropriate to what you were saying and reinforced your words powerfully. I will remember for a long time the way your face changed from delight to worry and then to total fear just before the impact. It was terrific.
I commended your variety in pitch, and in speaking speed. I commended your speech construction, your introduction, body and conclusion. I recommend that you work on using silence for emphaiss and that you practice standing still. I praised you very highly for your animated facial expressions.
This was an outstanding Project 5 speech.
Some advice for Evaluation Competitions
1. Model good speaking practice as you give your evaluation. It isn’t effective to mumble a recommendation to use clear articulation.
2. Give a good evaluation, using the principles outlined above.
3. Always have a concluding summary. Although it only carries 10% on the Judging form, some judges may mark your right down if you omit it.
4. Don’t take a chance with going overtime. A brilliant evaluation which takes 3 mins 31 secs is disqualified. Be particularly careful with your opening commendations. Don’t get carried away.
5. Give reasons why your commendations or recommendations are important, and demonstrate them as well. Remember the cliche about a picture being worth a thousand words.
6. Mostly deal with mainstream issues like eye contact, vocal quality, stance, gestures and speech construction. You want the judges to know that you understand their importance.
7. Include some novel point in either your commendations or recommendations that will make the judges sit up and listen carefully. Go for something quite sophisticated, but explain your point with crystal clear precision and demonstrate it accurately. If you confuse the judges, that is disaster. If you enlighten them – Bingo!!! (But please don’t make this your standard practice outside competitions.)
8. Don’t take a guess as to the Project Number of the speech. You will be given no information about that. Deal with it as a standard speech. If you guess the Project Number and a judge guesses differently, you may be marked down for your mistake. If you feel absolutely impelled to make a comment, you could risk something like this: “This would be a very suitable speech for Project 5, Vocal Variety.” But it would be a risk.
David Nicholas DTM