Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


In May 1999 Arif was preparing for an evaluation contest and sought ideas on what makes a good evaluation. The thread was Evaluation Contest. These tips can be used equally effectively in routine evaluations in the club.

Arif had already these factors in mind:

1. How well did the speech convey the message to the audience?
2. Did the speech have a good intro. , body, and a powerful conclusion?
3. Speaker's eye-contat?
4. Speaker's body-language?

Terry suggested when pointing out areas needing improvement, be sure to suggest ways to make those improvements.

Joe recalled his time as a target speakers in a contest when more important than anything else, a good evaluator builds the self-esteem of the speaker. Emphasize your feelings as well as mechanics. Were you inspired or motivated by the speech? Did the speech make you feel good or did it anger you? Avoid trite phrases such as, "I look forward to hearing your next speech.

Joy added Vocal variety is something to listen for, as well. Incidentally, regarding eye contact, I have noticed that most speakers favor one side of the room with eye contact. You might watch for that, especially if the speaker is especially good, and you're having trouble coming up with suggestions.

Denis suggested
Voice: vocal variety, projection, pace, pauses as being appropriate to subject and setting.
Movement and gestures: appropriate and again big enough for a bigger setting. think about stiffness or any sign of apparent nervousness. Did movement add or detract from presentation.
Eyes: Did speaker connect with all the parts of audience or did speaker lose part of room -- again based on size of audience.
Avoid any tendency to repeat the speech, and winning evals I have heard do find suggestions for even the best speech and speaker!

He also recalled the conflicting feedback he recieved as a rtarget speaker in a contest
The first evaluaor said; "I like your eye contact, you really connected" , second evaluator said: "try not to stare at people during your speech"

In another eval contest, one evaluator said of test speaker; "I loved how you worked the stage and involved whole audience, later evalator said, " you were all over the stage and made me lose track of message"

So, remember we all see different things differently.

In December 2004, Chris sought ideas for an Evaluation Workshop.

The most common mistake Mark sees is in thinking that the evaluation is about finding what's wrong with the speech. This leads very nice, but well meaning, members to say, "I can't find anything wrong." This is pleasant, but unhelpful. Other members, who are not afraid to point out flaws, wind up giving scorching evaluations. This is both unpleasant and unhelpful.

The evaluation is, in my opinion, about finding where the speech can be improved. For some speakers, there were be a struggle to decided which two or three points to raise. For other speakers, it will be a struggle to find two or three points. However, I firmly believe that all speeches can be improved.

Focusing on how the speech can be "better" also ties in to the incremental progress approach in Toastmasters. For someone who reads from a verbatim script, the "better" suggestion is to use notes. For someone who relies heavily on notes, the "better" suggestion is to memorize an outline. We wouldn't normally go from a person reading their Icebreaker speech to completely discarding the lectern in Speech #2. We usually ease members into more advanced concepts and techniqes.

For the very advanced speaker flying with notes, who suddenly goes blank and spends many painful seconds trying to get back on track, the "better" suggestion is to have the notes available. There's nothing in the slightest bit wrong in the occasional use of a well prepared note.

In April 1999 the thread was Effective Speech Evaluation, and the biggest mistake Denis sees is the evaluator repeating the speech. The evaluator should only repeat enough specific points to highlight a point of praise or a suggestion of improvement. This repetition should happen sparingly.

The club should get in the habit of always stating member goals and project objectives, just before speech. This will help focus the speaker and the evaluators and get everyone on the same page.

Jenny words all the positives in a way that gives the speaker the credit and makes it seem like this is a permanent, far-reaching trait. Conversely, the negatives should be worded in a way that doesn't assess blame and makes it seem like a temporary trait.


Positive: You spoke so eloquently and gave us such wonderful word pictures, as you always do. Negative: This speech was not as well-organized as usual. (instead of "YOU were not organized", or worse, "YOU are NEVER very organized")

Positive: You have mastered the art of gesturing! (a very permanent thing)
Negative: Try (add your tip here), and the signs of nervousness will be invisible next time. (temporary, won't be there forever).

There's nothing wrong with saying "This was a good speech" - but why not give the speaker the pride of personal accomplishment by saying, "YOU gave a good speech".

At the same time, there's no white-washing the negatives; it's just a way of wording them so that the sharp sting is dulled and there's hope of improving the next time. After all, if you were told "You have a nervous mannerism", it would seem like a permanent, hopeless problem - why make the effort to change? Instead, by saying, "Ear-pulling happened during times of nervousness - here's my tip for controlling nerves...", you acknowledge the problem, indicate that it's temporary and offer some hope for fixing it in future speeches.

An added caution - don't lie or make up stuff! If you've never heard this speaker or if this speaker, in fact, ALWAYS makes the same mistake, you can hardly say "This is not your usual way". Use your best judgement, and try not to sound like you're using a "technique".

In July 2005, the heading was Evaluating.
Nigel suggested telling the speaker how you connected with the speech and how it connected with you, without having to give your own story. "I enjoyed your speech about car racing because that has been a life long ambition of mine". Point out some good points about the speech "You gestures were great, for example when you said "zoom" and used your hands to relate the speed of the car". Try and pick a point where the speaker improved from the previous speech. "I noticed you used notes on your last speech, but this was without notes and it seemed like it was more natual because of that".

Pick one or two points to improve on and why. "I would like you to use more pauses in your speech. "Rather than ready, set go, try ready........set........ GOOOOOOOOOO to give a more dramatic start to the race". I would also like to see you move from behind the podium so you can connect more with your audience".

Finally, give another good point, a reinforcement. "Your vocal variety has improved greaty over the last few speeches, and I'm really looking forward to your next one".

Try to avoid commenting on the content on the speech too much. Your job as an evaluator is to examine the delivery, but be sure to follow the guidelines in the manual to make sure the speech achives the goals that are set out. Basically, did the content fill the requirements.

A few days before the meeting, find out who you are supposed to evaluate and ask them what they would like you to look out for specifically. Find out which manual speech they're doing so you can check the requirements rather than have to do it during the meeting.

John S offered some ways that I am likely to start an evaluation, but in each case they are in response to the speech, not prepared before hand.
Your comments on yak racing took me back to a childhood visit to Mesopotamia, but I think that the way you brought the subject to life was more vivid than my memory of the actual trip. I liked .... (but only if the speech topic was about yak racing - or adapted to suit the actual speech and your actual experience - this is the only time your experience is mentioned. Too often I have heard evaluators expounding their greater knowledge)

I've often wondered where the quote of the week people get their pithy sayings from - nicely encapsulated phrases that say it all in 10 seconds. To me, your statement .... deserves to be on an (which may or may not exist.)

I've never believed in evaluations where the expert (me) tells the student (you) what you did wrong. To me it is a chance to watch closely and decide which of your techniques I can incorporate in one of my future speeches. Well tonight I got three: the way that you ...., your use of ..... and .... (particularly useful when evaluating an experienced speaker - but all Toastmasters have experiences, just different ones. You can tell that to

Thank you for the inspiration. (or laughs, or information) What made it inspirational to me was .... And then end with something like: Again thank you. Tonight, I have decided to do something about it.
In each case, I hope I would convey the impact that a speech had on me, an important part of evaluation.
But never try to upstage the speaker with your greater knowledge, even if it is valid.

Mark believes that a good evaluation is really a two to three minute motivational speech. You want the speaker to be deeply inspired to make changes and also to be eager to give their next speech. It is your time to shine, but not to outshine!

Use all the good speech techniques you've learned in Toastmasters and elsewhere. They say that in giving a powerful presentation it's all about the audience, that's every bit as true for an evaluation. Use the methods that will reach your audience.

Anthony rephrased that to "remember that a good evaluation is really about providing productive and useful feedback to the speaker.

As your evaluation skills develop, you will find that an evaluation also provides you with an opportunity to present a speech (the evaluation) that is good practice and a learning opportunity for future evaluations and speeches.

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