“The most effective evaluation comes from someone who sits beside us and helps us grow” – author unknown.
Giving effective feedback evaluation is a powerful skill used to improve the situations, to support behavioral change, or to reinforce positive behavior, either in the workplace, at school or at home. As Bill Gate indicated, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
In this blog, I would like to focus on giving effective feedback in public speaking. Regardless of what models we use, whether they be the Feedback Sandwich (where you make positive statements, discuss areas for improvement, and then finish with more positive statements), or the Heard, Saw, and Felt (HSF) model (where you state what you heard in the speech, what you notice how the speaker communicate using his/her body language when delivering the speech, and how you empathize with the speaker), it all boils down to four essential techniques.
The key message is that evaluation is the most important speech we’ll ever do in public speaking. Why? Because it is the part where you are actually giving value to somebody, providing the person a chance to grow and improve. A lot of times, people often give empty evaluations. They forget that evaluations are like performance. Here are the four techniques that you can wow the crowd, as well as giving concrete feedback that really help your speakers grill.
1. Evaluation is actually a performance. A lot of time, evaluator makes the mistake of speaking directly to the speaker and ignore the rest of the audience. For example, instead of saying “Dianne, I really like your body language, Here’s a better way to do it: ladies and gentlemen, the most impressive part of Dianne’s speech is her body language. Notice how body language brought her story to life.” As you can see, I am addressing the entire audience and performing for them. “I am making the evaluation for everybody, so that everybody can benefit.” Remember to make your evaluation a performance.
2. The next thing you want to do is to go deeper. A lot of times, people seem to scratch the surface. They simply say the obvious, which does not mean much because everybody obviously knows it. You just tell something this speaker already knows. By going deeper, you help your speaker uncover something that is of tremendous value to the speaker themselves. Here’s an example “She has a really great key message.” Now, that’s very simple. What if we go deeper? “Ladies and gentlemen, notice how her key message is perfectly in line with the rest of her contents. This is perhaps one of the most important things you want to do when you are beginning to write your speeches. When you start with a very strong key message, it’s very easy to align contents A, B and C to follow the key message and ensure that everybody knows what you are talking about and really make your speech comes to life.” This is especially so, when you are competing in the public speaking evaluation contests. People are probably going to say the same thing. So the deeper you can go, the more unique you can be, the better you are going to be on the judges’ radars.
3. Next is to give examples. It’s one thing again to scratch the surface and say the speaker has great body language, but to give examples to go deeper shows you are the expert. That means you know how this speech could be done better and you are going to show us that you know how. By showing this, you add a lot of credibility to yourself as an evaluator. The crowd and the audience can also see your demonstration of how this could be done better. For example: “She has great body language” versus “When she gets angry in her speech, she begins to clench her fists, She begins to scrunch her face. You could see in her body language how angry she is and that’s important to do when you’re trying to express emotion in a speech.” In other words, you highlight what was already done by an example. Remember, you are trying to help the person improve. This is how you could show them an example of how to do it better. The simple way a lot of people would say “I really think you can improve on your vocal variety.” Instead, we could say “as I heard your story, you told me a sad story about pain and suffering, but I notice the entire time that you are smiling. What you are trying to tell me?” Or, “I would suggest you implement more vocal variety. If you are trying to tell a sad story, speak slower, lower your voice pitch, and don’t have cheerful body language because this is a sad moment.” In other words, you point out the problem, why it’s a problem and you demonstrate how it could be done better by giving an example.
4. Lastly, use your time wisely. You don’t have a lot of time and people often start their evaluation speech with “ladies and gentle, give Dianne a round of applause.” 15 Seconds have passed. Or “Wow! I really like your speech.” Another 15 seconds have passed. Avoid talking about a bunch of good things of the speech that everyone already knows about, for example: “Let me talk about the improvements,” and your time is up. You need to use your time wisely. You have up to 3 minutes and 30 seconds to give your evaluation. My suggestion to you is to fit the following in first: you have an opening line that get people’s attention. This would be one of the highlights of your evaluation speech. Next would be two to three things the speaker can improve on. And lastly, if you have time, a summary and recap. Also, we should not mislead people with our feedback evaluation, Show the speaker a bit of “tough love.” Try to be truthful. That’d be the best thing you can do for the speaker. Also, when you’re evaluating somebody at a regular public speaking or Toastmasters club meeting, remember to stick to the manual objectives, as that should be the objectives of the speech. Sometimes people go way far from the manual objectives. Do not be afraid to ask the speaker to repeat his/her speech, if you find the speech is outside the scope of the manual objectives.
In conclusion, evaluation is a performance. The role of the evaluator is to give evaluations that help the speaker and the audience uncover something that is of value to them. You can do this by giving them practical examples of how to do their speeches better. Lastly, use your time wisely, do not state the obvious.