How seriously do you take your role as evaluator? How often do you think about Evaluation Page Three?
Recently, we had what’s called a round robin evaluation session for an advanced Toastmaster. Everyone has a chance to add a comment to the evaluation, which takes a lot of time, which is why we don’t use them very often in the regular clubs – but these are so incredibly valuable because you’ll hear a wide range of comments.
For example, last week.
My friend gave the first 10 minutes of a seminar she was giving in 3 days. She started with a picture of her family when she was a child and told us a story about being forced to take summer school math because her older brother was failing. It was all very… nice. A bit sad and had a strong under-text of how heartless her father was – which was not true. But she couldn’t hear it.
If she depended on only one evaluation – the person who gave her the verbal evaluation – she’d never hear what she heard from me.
“Your opening sucks.”
I know, you just gasped.
Is it ever ok to say “it sucked” in an evaluation?
How dare I say such a thing?
I never would say that to a new Toastmaster. But this speaker has been a member for close to 15 years. She earned our most advanced award, the Distinguished Toastmaster award. And she’s a good friend. She knows it’s not personal.
I told her that the opening story was weak and had no hook. “Start with, ‘Why didn’t you get one hundred percent on the test?'” I wanted her to open with the emotional truth, not the objective facts. It was so outrageous that she was scolded – even jokingly – for not having a perfect math test grade at age 6.
(By the way, I was there for the seminar she gave – and she delivered a fantastic presentation with an opening that had her audience in the palm of her hand.)
That’s the value of an evaluator who’s committed to helping you build your skills. Evaluations are the key to growth in your public speaking skills.
How do you evaluate? Does who the speaker is matter to you?
It should. “It sucked” should never be said to a new Toastmaster. Evaluation is the place for encouragement for the new Toastmaster. But there’s also a place to tell a hard truth to an experienced speaker who needs to hear it – such as me, when I gave an impromptu speech about vampire giraffes getting loose from the local zoo. You had to be there. But honestly, I was horrible. My evaluator tried really hard not to say that – but she should have. I deserved it.
Is that why there are three pages to the Pathways evaluation form?
Evaluations have a Page 3?
When you get a Pathways evaluation form, you’ll see three pages. Page one is what everyone concentrates on – it’s the what you did well, what do you need to work on, what will challenge you.
Page 2 covers the essential speaking skills review. Page 3 is the standards matrix so that your evaluator can compare your presentation to them and grade you accordingly.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t expect all 5s on the speaking skills review page. That’s a mistake and if you’re the evaluator, you’re not doing the speaker any good. You’re saying “you’re perfect” when it’s very likely that they aren’t. All 5s is lazy.
Seeing a bunch of threes is a good start. If you need work on a skill, it should be noted by your evaluator on that page.
Be Kind, Be Honest
I know some toastmasters who can’t be anything but kind. I imagine that one of them might have agreed with me about my friend’s speech introduction, but they’d never been so brutal as to say “it sucked.”
They’re right. I could get away with this because my fellow speaker is a close friend. There aren’t many people I’d say that to. I do have some guidelines how to give a good evaluation:
- Be kind – but also be honest. If you’re a new evaluator, you bring a new perspective to the speaker. That’s vital to speakers – they need to hear your reaction to their speeches.
- Never attack the speaker. That’s the difference between a good evaluator and a poor one. I’m never going to say “you’re horrible” to a speaker. That’s not kind.
- Be specific about what you don’t like. I had a specific problem with her opening and I had solution for her problem. That doesn’t always happen, but when I have an idea that I think needs the speaker’s consideration, I don’t hesitate to put it out there. I also don’t expect them to accept my ideas. Sometimes just putting a new idea or perspective out there inspires the speaker in ways none of us expect.
Ultimately, our job is to help the speaker hear what they can’t perceive about their speech – mannerisms, style, and sometimes – content.
Advanced Toastmasters – bring your A-game to evaluations. If you’re reading off the evaluation page 1, you’re not doing it right.
When you’ve had experience writing and presenting speeches, you should know how to analyze and speech and give feedback in a constructive way that will help the speaker. The page 2 and evaluation page three pages are there to to help you give that speaker and evaluation that will impact their future presentations.
Evaluation Page Two or Evaluation Page Three
Ok, lots of us ignore these pages entirely. In fact, I sometimes forget it’s there and don’t look at it. Sometimes speakers don’t print it out and give it to the evaluators.
Let’s nip that practice in the bud. While I dislike the three-page printout – is there any reason we can’t condense this to 2 pages and print it front and back? – we can’t ignore the essential speech skills evaluation.
I get the point of providing standard metrics. What I’m seeing however, is something else entirely. People aren’t reading the metrics. They’re simply going on their own perceptions. That’s not surprising – since the metrics are on another page entirely.
We Concentrate on Page 1
Look at how we handle evaluations in the first place: we concentrate on page one:
- What does the speaker do well?
- What could the speaker improve?
- What would challenge the speaker?
I think this may be something that we, as we grow as evaluators, might want to reconsider how we evaluate. I’m not talking about the techniques of evaluation – I’m talking about the sequence in which we do it.
The open page/write your comments format comes from the classic program. In the manuals, the evaluator was asked a series of questions and given space to write answers. So we long-term Toastmasters are conditioned to write notes or answer the questions as preparation for our evaluations.
Should we still be doing that?
It is important to take notes during a speech to be sure that you give a concise, pertinent evaluation. You don’t want to confuse two presentations, so you need to take notes. But those three questions are actually reflective, don’t you think? For after the speech, maybe.
Now, for me, writing down points of growth during the presentation is imperative. If I don’t write them down, I don’t remember them. So that middle question – what to improve – needs immediate attention from me.
So how can we adjust?
First, let’s drop that page 2 altogether. Let’s start to concentrate on the evaluation page three and start by circling the answers on there instead of going back to page 2 and filling in circles. That saves time and effort – and printing, if you’re printing out your evaluations for your evaluator. It focuses on speech presentation skills – which is mostly why we’re here.
Second, leave page 1, except for the things that you see need improvement and want to comment on, until after the end of the speech.
In fact, I think if you’re printing out the pages, print out page 1 and page 3 and put page 3 on the top, then staple. Or put them back to back. Either way, tell your evaluator that this page must be used in the evaluation!
I see this method having a few positive changes:
- Less retelling of the speech. Look Madam Evaluator, I just heard the speech – I don’t need to hear you retelling it.
- Less inclination on telling my story to match or beat the speaker’s story. I understand this inclination, but it doesn’t add value to the speaker.
- More focus on presentation skills, which are often given no attention in the current format.
- More attention on the value of the speech to you as an listener. What was my takeaway from your speech? Was it successful in conveying the message you wanted?
Evaluation Page Three Pledge
Therefore, I propose to you: The Page Three Pledge. Make the promise to start with the speaking skills matrix and make notes on that page and circle the appropriate levels for this speaker and this speech.
Instead of using page 2, let’s just drop it. All it does is provide a place for some comments – the real value isn’t in the comments, per se. It’s in the metrics and how TI has broken those down.
So I promise to take this page as seriously as I do the first. How about you? We’ll take the Page Three Pledge together.
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