Speech evaluations

The art of being specific in evaluations

Imagine you are walking to your cabin in the office. You see your boss marching from the opposite end in an animated discussion over a call. As the two of you arrive at a common point, he takes a moment off the call and with a broad smile on his face, mentions “You did a great job there. Keep it up.” Before you had the time to say “Thank you”, he resumes his discussion over the call and walks away.

You are certainly happy. After all, everyone loves a compliment. But most likely you are confused as well. “What job was he referring to? Was it the client meet yesterday? Or the report you made after the client meet? Perhaps it was your performance over the course of the entire month.”  Who knows?

If that makes you anxious, fret not. It wasn’t you but your boss. He forgot the one vital element of communication – being specific.

Whether you are complimenting someone or criticizing, be it in Toastmasters or beyond – being specific is the sacred rule of effective communication.

 In Toastmasters, to be an effective evaluator, one that wins the coveted “Best Evaluator” award in every meeting, practice being specific. Every time you mention what was good or not good in the speaker’s performance, highlight the specific instance from his or her speech so that the speaker and the audience know what induced the compliment or criticism in your evaluation.

Have a look at the following excerpt from an evaluation – 

“I was really impressed by your voice modulation throughout the speech. Having said that, I do believe your hand gestures could have been better”

There are two flaws with this type of evaluation – one is that the evaluator is never going to make it to the green card with this approach. The other is that the speaker has no idea which voice modulation trick impressed the evaluator but more importantly where could have he/she introduced hand gestures.

Read the same evaluation now.

“I was really impressed by your voice modulation throughout the speech. When you increased your pace while describing your first roller coaster ride, I could feel your thrill. Your mimicry of your kid’s voice was also brought about perfectly. Having said that, I do believe your hand gestures could have been better. While describing the twist and turns in the roller coaster, you missed the golden opportunity to sway your hands to help us, your audience, visualize your vision.”

Wouldn’t you agree that this evaluation makes far more impact than the earlier one?

Here’s the central idea – every time you make a commendation or recommendation, follow it up with a citation of the specific instance that shows what caused you to bring it up in your evaluation.

Your stage choreography was excellent. When you ….(Cite the specific instance here.)

You could have done better at eye contact. While speaking about …. (Cite the specific instance here.)

Your excellent command over the language was evidently displayed in your speech today. Right at the beginning you used the metaphor for …. (Cite specific examples here.)

Follow this simple formula and you are all set to give great award winning evaluations.

There you go – that’s the most sacred rule in evaluation. SHOW, DON’T TELL.


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