Thursday, October 9, 2008

Evaluation is an Art

Have you ever heard of these comments before?
a) "Evaluation is the cornerstone of the Toastmasters program"
b) "Evaluate to motivate"
c) "Evaluate the speech, not the speaker"
d) "Don't whitewash"
e) "Give specific practical ways on how the speaker can improve"
f) "I am here to cut and polish you until you become a diamond"
g) "I hope you can rehearse more but anyway it was a great speech, congratulations and move on to your next project"

Evaluation is a skill and an art that we perform and we observes others others performing it at every club meeting.

It involves careful listening, quick thinking and impromtu speaking.

If we remind ourselves that our primary purpose is to encourage the speaker to continue speaking and to improve further, half the battle is won.

Evaluation speech contest is the best place to see how a great evaluation is done as the contestant have to demonstrate all the judging criteria of being sensitive and positive yet analytic and specific.

But be wary that it can be overdone because the all evaluation contestants are in a combative and competitive mode to get the most of judges' attention and points.

At the club meeting, the evaluation can be tailored more closely to the specific and personal needs and speaking experience level of each speaker.

For example, a speaker could be a last minute replacement for another member who suddenly cannot attend the meeting. Consideration must be given that the speaker had not much time to rehearse.

In another situation when visiting another club, you were suddenly given the honor of evaluating a speaker that you have not met before. While this is a golden opportunity for the speaker to get a fresh and valuable outsider independent feedback , if not careful, it can be like stepping on a landmine.

What if the project speech delivered was not well rehearsed or failed to meet any of the project objectives. Should the evaluator be diplomatic, avoid any strong medicine and use neutral statements. Or be sincere and honest.

One possible way is to test the water. Ask the audience and project speaker leading questions during your evaluation to check if the audience and speaker share your sentiments.

A more open and direct evaluation can always be done on a one-on-one level with the speaker after the meeting.

Remember that members join Toastmasters to help improve their self-confidence. Everyone can have a bad hair day.

The art of evaluation is a constant mix and balance of maintaining the self-esteem as well as helping the speaker to grow further.

If you have not evaluated before, you can start by being the Ah Counter. You will realize soon that it is not how many Ah you caught but how you deliver your report. Establish eye contact, use humor and don't cause embarrassment when announcing the one with the highest number of ahs.

If you want to know who are the experienced evaluators who can help you, look no further. There is a Division N Evaluation Contest this October 25th Saturday afternoon in Penang. Ask your Club President or Area Governor or Division Governor for details of venue and time.

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