I’ve said for a while that the evaluations you receive and give at a Toastmasters meeting are Toastmasters’ secret sauce. Immediate feedback has always been recognized as the best way to learn. That reinforcement of your good skills and a look at what could be done to improve make you better faster than everything else.
The evaluation has 2 parts. The verbal evaluation is the speech that’s given during the club meeting. The written evaluation is a form you’ll download from the Pathways website for the evaluator to take notes on and return to you after the meeting.
As the speaker, you need to provide the evaluation form from the project. On the surface, this evaluation form looks fairly standardized. They are. There aren’t significant changes from one project evaluation form to another. What is different?
- The objectives of the speech project
- Any particular skill that is being evaluated in the project.
Every speech project has its own purpose
You could say that every speech is about improving speaking skills – well, yes. But sometimes the speeches are to be designed to improve or practice specific presentations. That will be mentioned in the objectives section.
Now… in many clubs we don’t have evaluators assigned until the day of the meeting. Some clubs have every slot filled the week before the meeting. And there’s no guarantee that the person you expect to be your evaluator will show up.
It is your job as a speaker to get the evaluation form to the evaluator. You can either print it out or email it.
Add the additional possibility that there won’t be wifi or a signal for an evaluator to get your last-minute evaluation form online. So print a paper copy just in case and bring it to the meeting. I know, some people say they’ll remember and send it later, but there’s nothing like in-the-moment notes made by an evaluator. Plus, you can be sure that they’re not going to wing it during your evaluation.
I think that it’s a good idea to have a brief conversation with your evaluator before you start and explain if there is anything specific you want them to pay attention to. I’d write that on the top of the evaluation page too. I always appreciate when a speaker tells me what to look for.
Let me say one thing about new evaluators.
We LOVE you. We WANT your evaluations almost more than any others. Why? Because you haven’t seen us before. Fresh eyes will see new things that our long-time fellow members don’t notice anymore. Don’t think you don’t have anything to bring to the table in an evaluation. You’ve got your perspective and we want to hear it.
I often hear evaluators say to the speakers, “I couldn’t find anything to improve.” I wince when I hear that. It’s the worst possible comment to make. There is always something we speakers can find in ourselves to improve. That stutter, that mispronunciation – I can catalog all my problems after every speech.
If you’re not sure about what to say, try this method.
- What did you see?
- What did you hear?
- What did I make you feel?
That’s a speaker’s dream evaluation. You cover every key point of communication just by answering those three points. You do NOT have to follow the Pathways evaluation form when you give the verbal evaluation. That’s the power of the See/Hear/Feel evaluation. It’s not the average evaluation. It brings a lot of value to the speaker. Let them read your comments about what they did well, what they can improve on and how to challenge themselves from the evaluation sheet.
The second great value of evaluation
This may surprise you – but you’re not going to improve the most from the time you’re on the stage.
I know, crazy, right? But I think it’s been most Toastmasters experience that their improvements start when they evaluate other speakers.
I have no explanation for this. But it’s true. I think that there may be 2 components in play.
First, you’re paying a lot more attention to the speech and the speaker if you’re the evaluator. What you see, write down, and verbally comment on – it gets into your brain. Then, when you’re speaking, that reinforcement unconsciously influences your presentations. I have no science to back this up – but it makes sense to me. This is why I like to evaluate other people’s speeches – and I’m known to be a rough evaluator. For new members, I will be almost all encouragement. But I know that I need the tough, specific, nit-picky evaluations to improve. For advanced Toastmasters, most of us crave them.
The second great value to being an evaluator is that you’re going to comment on things that you notice the most. Of course. But you will also point out the things that you personally need to improve. Many Toastmasters have had the same experience, so it’s not just me. What do you consistently notice about other speakers? After several evaluations, you’ll figure it out. Then you can start to work on it yourself.
Weird, right? But oh so true!
Advanced Toastmasters and Pathways Evaluations
If you’re a long-time Toastmaster, you’ve seen the variety of evaluation forms in the manuals. Each was created to be specific to the speech project.
When you look at the Pathways Evaluation, they look identical until you put two side by side. Yes, there is a lot of redundancy. I don’t know why TI chose to do that, but there it is.
If you’re an advanced Toastmaster, it’s time for you to step up your evaluations. Are you still reading the evaluation questions and then answering them? Come on! It’s time to get into the game. You’ve got experience and you’ve got wisdom – bring it to your evaluations. Don’t let the Pathways Evaluation form be a limit – let it become the diving board for moving you into better, deeper evaluations that will help you and others improve.
My thanks to Debbie Curtis DTM for the See Hear Feel evaluation technique. It’s gold!
Next time, we’ll talk about the single evaluation form you need to keep handy for yourself and for your club.