Evaluating a speech for maximum impact

I gave a speech at the Taboos Toastmasters club yesterday evening and during the evaluation by the General Evaluator, there was a mini debate about the best way for evaluators to evaluate a speech. The argument had one group of people who thought the evaluator should speak directly and exclusively to the speaker, and the other group thought the evaluator should speak to the speaker but also address the audience.

Speech Evaluation


I think an effective and impactful evaluation achieves both purposes. Based on my personal experience and the content available on the Toastmasters.org website, this is what I think a speech evaluation should be conducted, in three minutes:

  • Connect with the speaker. Find a point the speaker made that you could relate to, and open by mentioning that point. That will make the speaker feel at ease and know that you actually listened carefully. During this phase of the evaluation, focus your attention on the speaker. It is your evaluation opening, and the speaker should feel that this will be about him or her.
  • Highlight the strong points of the speaker. The strong points of the speaker should either be the speaking skills he has and you the evaluator don’t, or the speaking skills that you have and can tell the speaker has too. Mentioning those skills will help audience members learn from the evaluation process, the speech would have given them a good reference.
  • Make suggestions for improvement. This is where the constructive criticism comes in. One important word NOT to say to transition into this phase is the word “BUT”. When you use the word “but”, whatever you would have said before is nullified and rendered void in the mind of the speaker and the audience. Replace “but” with “and”. It will achieve the same purpose and will be more effective. The suggestions for improvement are those aspect of the speaker’s delivery or message that “you” believe making adjustments to will help in the future. Keep these suggestions to a minimum (in public) and during this phase, generalize what you say by turning your suggestions into lessons for the speaker and the audience alike.

Giving a good speech evaluation that will have an impact on the speaker is a challenging task. Just like with anything else, it is the process of doing that over and over again that will make you become an expert a it. The debate should not be about whether you should speak exclusively to the speaker or the audience, it should be about what goes into delivering an impactful evaluation. Every time you evaluate, remember the points mentioned above and you will be evaluating for maximum impact.