The art of evaluation

Written by Melinda Nation from an educational I ran at Coolum Communicators.

An evaluation can make or break our passion for something. It can lift us up to the clouds and propel us forward or it can take the wind out of our sails and halt our journey. Evaluation is a cornerstone of the Toastmasters organisation. Evaluation is an essential part of how we learn and grow.

10 tips for effective evaluation and they are as follows:

  1. The Feedback Sandwich – The Feedback Sandwich model has been used by many effective managers and leaders. The technique involves “sandwiching” a point for improvement between praise. It involves praising the speaker for a strength, then discussing a point for improvement and recommendation but then building the speaker back up with a motivating point of praise. This softens the blow of negative feedback and allows the speaker to feel supported with recognition of their strengths.
  1.  Future Goals – A great evaluation sets a speaker future goals to aspire to. A point for improvement is unhelpful if it does not accompany a recommendation for how the speaker can improve in future.
  1.  Speak in the Third Person – All members of the club can benefit from evaluations. It is important to speak to the entire audience to encourage everyone to grow. It also helps the speaker not feel singled out!
  1.  Focus on Highlights – Do not summarise a person’s speech in an evaluation. Do focus on specific highlights and why they were noteworthy.
  1. Focus on Speech Objectives – Most, if not all speeches delivered at Toastmasters are from different speaking manuals. Each project in each manual follows specific objectives. Keep in mind that the speaker has prepared their speech carefully, following these objectives. The speaker will learn more about the effectiveness of their speech when they are evaluated based on the speech project objectives.
  1.  Be Positive and Supportive – If an evaluation is too negative or if it is unsupported, the person being evaluated will be less likely to take criticism on board as they become defensive. A positive and supportive evaluation means any criticism will naturally be more easily received.
  1.  Be Specific – The difference between a good evaluation and a great evaluation can come down to how specific the evaluation is. If the point of improvement is regarding gestures, you may want to act out the specific gesture the speaker used. If the evaluator is discussing word use, use quotes from the speech. It demonstrates to the audience that the evaluator was really listening and reflects good analytical quality to the evaluation.
  1.  Connect with the Audience – Similarly to speaking in the third person, make sure the evaluation is targeted in body language and eye contact to the entire audience. Do not focus eye contact or gestures to only the speaker. It will make them feel “put on the spot” and can be uncomfortable.  Remember that an evaluation is a speech and still requires you to engage the audience.
  1.  Don’t Whitewash – Whitewashing is where the evaluator is too positive, with little or no points for improvement or recommendations. This can feel inauthentic to an audience and does not help the speaker learn or grow from their presentation. Some people find evaluating more experienced, or strong speakers intimidating. Remember that all Toastmasters are at the club to learn and grow, and we all do this by being evaluated by fellow members. An evaluation is your own personal impression of the effectiveness of the speaker’s presentation. If you can’t find a point for improvement ask yourself: how could the speaker have made their presentation more effective? The answer to that question is your point for improvement.
  1.  Structure –  Remember that an evaluation is a 2 – 3 minute speech, and just like any speech it needs an introduction, a body and a conclusion. You may wish to structure it similarly to a Table Topic for each point: state the point; state the reason; give an example and restate the point. Remember your conclusion must summarise the evaluation. In the Evaluation Contest, the summary is worth 15 points and can win or lose the contest!