Toastmasters – how to evaluate

So last week I gave my Toastmasters speech on the subject of speech evaluation (there’s a good way to put your evaluator on the spot!).

As usual I ran over time – I’m yet to completely compensate for the way the speech expands in length from my practising at home to when I give it for real and 7 minutes just turns out to be far too short a time to convey much useful information. When the warning lights started to come on I made a decision to cut two paragraphs that I’d earlier marked as optional… and I still ran over.

But apart from the timing and a moment when I lost my thread and had to stare at my notes, it went very well. We were in a different room to our usual one and the noise levels were much higher – we had a busy swimming pool the other side of plate glass windows all the way down one side of the room. They helped force me to push myself and really project my voice – which was a good thing because it was a speech project about using your voice effectively!

I talked briefly about what goes into a good speech and how these are things that you should look for when evaluating. I also mentioned the things that are looked for in the Toastmasters speech evaluation contest – logically it makes sense to also think about those when doing an evaluation. But the focus of my speech was that speech evaluation is a personal thing. Everybody is affected differently by a speech and, given that three minutes isn’t enough time to talk about everything that the speaker did, I think it’s important to concentrate on the things that move YOU. For me personally, that’s the introduction. If you can’t grab the audience’s attention in the first thirty seconds of your speech then you’re sure as hell not going to have it by the middle of your speech. I also recommended that, after you’ve given your first couple of evaluations and found your “evaluation style”, type-up a crib sheet… something that provides a skeleton for you to hang your evaluation on… headings about things to look for, spaces marked out for things you know you’ll want to comment on, that sort of thing.

And then… my secret technique… when you’ve written all this stuff down during the speech, you have a mass of scribblings all out of order. Remember that an evaluation is like a mini speech in itself: it needs an introduction, a body with transitions between your points and a conclusion. So I write sequence numbers next to the things I want to talk about on my crib sheet. That way, when I’m standing up and speaking, my thoughts will flow in a coherent order.

The audience went wild *LOL*. I felt like a rock star – never had quite that many congratulations after a speech before!

This week I’m chairman… I have a good theme but I’m not feeling desperately enthused.

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