Viewpoint: The Gift of Evaluation

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

A message from our International President

“Feedback should always be accepted for what it is – a gift. Too often, though, it’s deployed as a weapon. Deliver it with care, accept it with appreciation.”

Jim Gray, professional speaker

Effective, constructive evaluations are critical to the health of our clubs. They provide members with the opportunity to either flourish or leave discouraged. We’ve all heard stories of the overly critical evaluation that devastates a speaker.

And we’ve also heard the empty words, “I can’t think of a thing to suggest for improvement.” Clearly, evaluators play a vital role in Toastmasters.

One of my pet peeves is an evaluation that begins, “That was an excellent speech” and then paraphrases the message. As speakers, we are well aware of the content. We need helpful and appropriate suggestions on how to improve. Once we know how to become better, we do.

Evaluators, please articulate clearly what we can do differently. Share your impressions and opinions as a gift to the speaker, and let the speaker decide how to incorporate that feedback.

Some people fear giving an evaluation. Yet the criteria and information found in the Communication manuals make the job easier. When we read the speaker’s assignment in advance, we uncover helpful cues that make us more effective evaluators.

The manuals even provide us with feedback suggestions for when we are challenged. As we become present in our listening, a fascinating process occurs: We start to hear at a much deeper level. As we listen intently, we develop critical thinking skills. We first hear, then analyze, the amazing transitions, triads, alliterations and turns of phrase.

The weaving of the secondary story line throughout the primary message becomes audible, as does vocal variety, congruency, construction and all the other elements of a good speech.

Do not rob your speaker of your valuable opinions; you are a member of his or her audience and if you are reacting in a certain way, others in the audience may have similar reactions.

I love evaluations. I’ve grown in Toastmasters because of the superb evaluations I’ve received. I remember the feedback I received during my early years in Toastmasters from Joseph, a fellow club member. Each time I spoke, Joseph challenged me to use more vocal variety. During the four years we were in the same club, Joseph never let me off without an analysis of my voice. I can still hear him today, reminding me to use more vocal variety.

Evaluators have a huge responsibility. Strong evaluations are the gift we give each other as Toastmasters. Indeed, both sharing and receiving evaluations fosters the essence of our Toastmasters Promise and mission statement.

Pat Johnson, DTM International President

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