What is a Toastmaster Speech Evaluation?
Every prepared speaker is allocated a fellow Toastmaster who plays the role of an evaluator. The Evaluator sits in the audience and listens attentively to the speaker allocated to him and then makes a detailed note of his strengths and the areas of improvements that he/she deems right for the speaker.
How to Evaluate an Icebreaker Speech (P1) at Toastmasters?
If you thought giving an Icebreaker speech at Toastmasters is going to be a task, wait till you are made to Evaluate. The Evaluation Segment is the most critical element and the heart of any Toastmaster Meeting.
Evaluating for an Icebreaker is in some ways different from a normal Evaluation.
Considering that an Icebreaker is one of the first speeches for most members, the evaluation is aimed at encouraging the speaker to come up more on stage.
The evaluators tend to touch upon mild stylistics of speechwriting and other verbal and non-verbal devices.
At the first thought, this may seem easy, but believe me it isn’t. It will require crazy listening abilities, critical thinking and preparing for your mini speech while listening to the speaker.
While it is a difficult task, it can always be made extremely enriching an experience for both, the speaker and the evaluator.
For most Toastmasters their first stints as Evaluators are for Icebreaker Speeches. Considering this, this article is aimed at explaining all that you need to keep in mind while doing your First Evaluation.
Related Article – Delivering a Fiery Icebreaker at Toastmasters
How Should You Prep for Your First Evaluation?
Like I stated earlier, an Evaluation is one of the most important roles that are there at the club. The direction in which the new speaker will begin his or her journey will depend on what you tell them, therefore, approach this role with utmost responsibility.
Here, I am sharing with you a very simple prep routine, something that I use and I have seen others use as well.
Understand that the time allotted to you is 2-3 minutes with a 30 second grace on either sides.
Learn Learn Learn
Reach out to your Mentor and learn
By now you would have heard this umpteen amounts of time from me but believe me I can’t stress enough on the importance of this.
Often, I have noticed that most mentees reach out to their mentors only for the speeches and do other roles without their aid.
Understand the mentor is there to help you at every step of your journey no matter how small a step it is.
Take tips from them and if you can, perhaps also try practicing once with them.
Take any speech either off the internet or from a video of a fellow club member and take down points and then discuss it with your mentor.
This sounds like too much work but believe me this exercise will only help you become better and more confident.
The key to a good and effective evaluation is to see and tap into the tiny creases that are hampering the speech.
This attention to detail is difficult to master and these exercises will only help open up your mind more to these tiny details.
This is of primary importance especially if it’s a senior member starting out on a new path and it is his Icebreaker that you’re evaluating.
Sit with an experienced evaluator and learn
This was one prep method that worked really well with me. Considering that one of the first speeches that most members evaluate is that of the Icebreaker, doing this will really help.
Reach out to any senior member who is evaluating, sit next to him/her and mark the speaker using your sensibilities.
Later, after the meeting or in the break, and discuss your points with them and hear what they have to say about the same speaker.
This will be a unique experience since it will open your mind to understanding nitty gritties of the evaluation and will also fuel your confidence.
Understand the Speech Objectives
All projects at Toastmasters are defined by a given set of objectives. For the Icebreaker, they are
- To begin speaking in front of an audience
- To discover the speaking skills that you already have and the ones that need attention.
Thus, for any evaluator it is of primary importance to understand the speech objectives and mark the speech according to that.
The second objective here clearly defines that as an evaluator you need to focus more on understanding the delivery stylistics that come naturally to the speaker and bringing it forth for him/her.
Try not to suggest complicated stylistics like those of stage movements, intonation etc. Your aim should be to show the speaker how to make better of what they already have.
Try Reading up on Pathways
Try getting in touch with the speaker and understanding what path they’ve chosen at Toastmasters. This will help you in guiding them from the very beginning.
Eg. If the speaker has chosen the Engaging Humour Path but you feel their Icebreaker lacked humour, this could go as a recommendation.
Breaking Down the Icebreaker Evaluation Form
Every project at Toastmasters is accompanied with an Evaluation form that is supposed to be filled by the Evaluator.
This form is aimed at simplifying the process of evaluation. It consists of four sections.
The first one is aimed at stating the purpose of the speech of what we call the Speech Objectives.
The second one is a section that is titled Notes to the Evaluator. Here, the Evaluator is given specific points to keep in mind to ensure that the evaluation doesn’t get too critical and harsh for the speaker.
Each project at Toastmasters caters to specific aspects of public speaking and as an Evaluator it is of paramount importance that you understand this.
This section aims to highlight just that and thus should be read thoroughly.
Post this is the General Comment and the Numeric Section. The general comments have pointers that will elucidate what they need you to write.
The numeric section need not be used for the first speech, however, for the future speeches you Evaluate, you will need it.
It is extremely simple to understand this though it looks a little complicated. Each main stylistic is supposed to be ranked by you on a scale of 1 to 5.
If you glance through the next page, it explains in detail what rank should be awarded for achieving of what stylistic attribute.
The Evaluation Form is aimed at easing the transition of a member from an Evaluator to an Effective Evaluator and thus shouldn’t be left out but read and understood thoroughly. You can download the icebreaker evaluation form here.
Things to keep in mind while Evaluating an Icebreaker
Know Your Speaker
This is of paramount importance. I am not referring to having a personal equation with the speaker here.
Although, if you do there is nothing better than that.
But, what I mean to say here is that understand who the speaker is, whether he is a complete noob to public speaking or is someone who is new to Toastmasters but has been into public speaking before (could be in college or school, could have been on a TED stage, could have been an actor).
It can also be someone who has been a Toastmaster and is starting out on a new path or switching from the old curriculum to the new one.
Your strategy for evaluation will change for each one.
Type 1 – The Complete Newbie
If the speaker is a complete noob and has never done public speaking before, I would advise you to be kind to this speaker.
Get on stage and first acknowledge the fact that the speaker took this first big step because it is not an easy task. Probably get the audience to clap again.
Ensure that you don’t talk about extravagant things like stage movements, intonation and modulation and tonality etc.
Your speaker is just starting out, these things will take time and you discussing them will only overwhelm him/her further.
Try introducing them to basic positive and open body language, eye contact etc.
Related Article – Five Body Language Tips to Command the Stage
Ensure that you also highlight how important it is to have quality content.
Explain this simple thing. As humans we are bound to listen attentively to stories.
This is the right time to introduce them to the power of stories and narratives.
Related Article – The Power of the Rule of Three in Speech Writing
Type 2 – The Semi Experienced Speaker
If your speaker is someone who is new to Toastmasters but has had public speaking experience before, you can tap onto a slightly more comprehensive evaluation template.
This can include more detailed vocal variety tools, better structuring of the speech etc.
Type 3 – The Experienced Toastmaster
The third kind is the one where you have experienced Toastmaster who is either done with one path and is moving on to another or is switching from the old curriculum to the new one.
Considering that your speaker is no newbie to the art of public speaking, feel free to mark them on simple as well complicated verbal and non-verbal stylistics.
Related Article – All You Need to Know About Voice Modulation and Tonality for Public Speaking
Interact With Your Speaker
In most cases the agenda of the meeting usually comes out a few days before the meeting and once you know who the speaker is try getting in touch with them.
Get to know him/her if you can and if anything this will help you gauge their merit a little better.
Let me throw some more light on this. When I did my first evaluation I didn’t quite know that the speaker is someone who has had a stint as an actor.
He was so fluid on stage that it seemed like he was literally gliding.
Considering this was his second speech and I didn’t quite anticipate this, it served as a distraction.
I guess I must have spent at least a minute of the speech being mesmerized by this.
It’s as simple as had I known this about him, two things would have happened. The first, it wouldn’t have served as a distraction.
But, most importantly as an evaluator I would have read up more on what stylistics would be his strong points and what wouldn’t.
This would have enabled me to come up with a more thorough evaluation and guide him better.
Remember, your job as an evaluator is to guide your speaker.
Understanding these tiny things about the person you’re evaluating can help and make the role a little less stressful for you as well since you’re well prepared.
I know this may not always be possible but understand that if you can push for it to happen, you must.
Be Kind to the Speaker
Understand that for a lot of speakers this probably is their first time speaking onstage. It takes a lot of guts to walk up on stage and speak in front of a bunch of people.
Most people come to Toastmasters to conquer their fear of Public Speaking.
Remember this and always applaud their first effort to conquer their fear no matter how poor it may seem.
As an Evaluator, the speaker is most likely to be overwhelmed by your presence.
Believe me, I too was by my evaluator when I gave my Icebreaker.
That’s why it is essential that as an Evaluator you help ease the nervousness of the speaker.
Get in touch beforehand and tell them that they will be okay on stage.
Speak to them before the meeting as well and smile warmly.
There ain’t anything a warm smile can’t cure. It will ease the speaker.
Try talking about other things on the day of the Icebreaker and diverting their attention.
This will also ease the speaker’s nervousness.
Smile at them as they speak and look out for you in the audience.
Most new members tend to do their speeches with the first couple months of becoming members that is they barely have any friends apart from their mentors and perhaps a few other people.
Considering that you are going to be evaluating they will tend to look at you, smile when they do as much.
Chances are they’re looking for a positive affirmation from you while speaking. A smile will do as much.
Things to Keep in Mind as You Take the Stage
Treat it as a speech
An Evaluation is a role that commands the most time on the Agenda after that of a speaker and the TMoD. Ensure that you treat it as a speech and prep beforehand.
When you get onstage ensure that you maintain eye contact with the speaker and talk.
Just like it is important to reach out to the senior members and to your mentor for feedback after a speech, it is equally essential to do so after an evaluation or rather any role that you take up.
Ask them about how you can make it better and where do you need to work on. Try implementing it the next time you take stage as an evaluator.
Sit with a paper and pen and begin taking notes once the speaker begins. In the break try to structure your notes and break them into bullet points. Understand that you can take these with you on stage.
There is no need to memorise.
Most evaluations follow the CRC method. They begin with commendations, move on to recommendations and end with commendations again.
This is not the only way you can evaluate.
If you wish to branch out of the sandwich method, you may. The only thing to keep in mind is that you use an encouraging tone throughout.
Take the Evaluation Off-Stage
Understand that for a first-time speaker just the idea of getting evaluated in front of an audience can get more overwhelming than doing the speech.
Therefore most evaluators tend not to pick on tiny details in their evaluation reports on stage.
They do it post the meeting in a private dialogue with the speaker. This ensures two things.
One the speaker is more comfortable receiving constructive criticism since it is just him/her and the evaluator.
Two, it gives the speaker a chance to seek clarifications on all recommendations in terms of how to go about in its implementation.
When I did my Icebreaker I remember telling a friend that morning why was it necessary to have an evaluator evaluate my speech in front of thirty people.
This thought scared me too. But, when I saw how positive the onstage evaluation was, I was relieved.
Post the meeting my evaluator walked up to me and discussed certain things with me that I am sure had he mentioned onstage it would have smashed my confidence.
The post meeting ten minute talk actually helped me more. That’s why I really believe it is important to take the evaluation off stage.
Be Kind to Yourself as Well
The role of an evaluator can get extremely stressful and mettlesome considering the fact that you are to help determine a fellow member his strengths and weaknesses and how to build a speaking profile that is the best combination of it.
I too was very scared precisely because of this and in fact didn’t take up the role of an evaluator for almost a year after I became a member.
I kept dodging it one way or the other.
But, if there is one thing I have learnt is that it is a very important skill to master and one that looks scary but ain’t that much. Practice and go.
Like I asked you to be kind to the speaker, be kind to yourself too for this may just be your first time evaluating.
You are bound to make mistakes so forgive yourself, seek help and if you feel you couldn’t give a very valuable feedback to the speaker walk up to him post the meeting and apologise.
In fact I would recommend that both of you then walk up to other members and seek feedback together.
Hearing what others have to say about the same speech will open up your view as well and tell you where you lacked in understanding the speaker and the speech.
Sample Icebreaker Evaluation Outline
Usually, in my experience, I have seen most evaluators begin their evaluations with a slightly positive tone. This is done in an attempt to introduce the speaker to his/her strengths. They also use the introduction to explain the points in the speech where they could connect the most with the speaker.
Here is an actual Icebreaker speech from back in 2016 along with a sample evaluation for the same speech. (View the speech video before reading the evaluation)
The Sample Evaluation
Hello everyone, and Hello to ______ (name of your speaker) in particular. Lao Tzu once very rightly said, “A Journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”. Congratulations on taking your first big step. Your speech was enjoyable. I liked especially how you began with explaining us the perils of having a lesser-known name. As someone who has the same with her last name, I could totally relate to that bit. Using self-deprecating humour right at the start is a very powerful technique to ease the audience into listening to you and staying with you throughout the speech. Well done with that.
The evaluator then moves on to the body where they discuss certain recommendations for the audience. Remember to always explain your recommendations for better understanding. For eg.
Like all speeches always have some scope of improvement, I have a few points that I feel might compliment your strengths and make your speech better.
- Try using the dramatic device of Pause. Considering that you used the literary device of self-deprecating humour a couple times, it could have been paired with Pause. This would’ve have generated greater impact.
- The purpose of an Icebreaker is to introduce yourself to the audience which you did but instead of just dropping snippets of your life and whetting our appetite what you could have done is share those stories.
A good speech always consists of interesting anecdotes. Let me give you an example. You could have spoken about an incident from school perhaps where your lesser known name got you into some funny situation.
You could have also elaborated on the aspect of how you fell in love with music, maybe talk about your first tryst with it. We would have loved to hear about how you helped build your college’s first music society as well. You see, three narratives and you would have left us mesmerized.
The conclusion is what follows next. Aim to be a summary of the speech and end on an encouraging and uplifting note. It can go as
Out and out congratulations on a job well done. Ensure that you weave narratives and use the device of Pause and you will be sorted. All the Best and looking forward to more speeches from you.
Final Words: A Less Fruitful Evaluation is Okay
The very thought of giving a less fruitful someone who has probably worked for weeks on it can be very crippling.
In fact this was something that kept me away from Evaluating until I had to do it to finish a project.
Remember, it is okay to not do a good job. I have seen people who have won at Club and some even at Area Level in the Evaluation contest but still sometimes can’t give an evaluation that is completely fruitful.
We all make mistakes but at Toastmasters we only forgive them when you show an attitude to learn and reach out for feedback.
For the Toastmasters Family a job well done is not the one that took everyone by surprise and pushed them to applaud real hard, it’s the one where on a not so good day you showed the spirit to learn and try again.
Pull up your socks and push yourselves to do this. Prep enough and seek feedback and there is going to be no stopping you.
Till then, Happy Toastmastering!!
Further Reading –
The Skill of Crafting the Perfect Speech Evaluation
How to Perform the Role of a General Evaluator in a Toastmaster Meeting