One might think that everyone joins Toastmasters to become a better speaker, but not always.
The reason I joined Toastmasters was to develop my evaluation skills. I had recently taken the job teaching nutrition communication to dietetics students at Purdue University, and I wanted to learn how to evaluate their speaking in a constructive and supportive manner.
Toastmasters builds better speakers through more than practicing speaking.
We can learn to be better speakers not only through practice but also through being evaluated when we speak. Additionally, when we observe other speakers and especially when we formerly evaluate their speaking, we also build our presentation knowledge and skills.
Evaluators, speakers, and all participants in a Toastmasters meeting gain insights into the elements of successful presentation by observing and evaluating speeches.
Toastmasters has designed an effective and proven approach to evaluation that teaches how to evaluate effectively and provides the tools and experience to put that knowledge into practice. Toastmasters members are scheduled not only to be speakers at club meetings but also to take turns as evaluators.
The Toastmasters guide titled Evaluate to Motivate teaches how to effectively evaluate. I used this in my nutrition communication course not only to learn how to evaluate my students more effectively but also to teach them how to evaluate one another.
The Toastmasters principles of effective evaluation.
The Evaluate to Motivate resource highlights these principles of effective evaluation:
Providing immediate feedback. Evaluations occur during the same meeting in which speeches are made. The evaluator’s goal is to be supportive and helpful, reinforcing positive speaking behaviors as well as pointing out areas to work on.
Offering methods for improvement. Evaluators are tasked with offering helpful suggestions for correcting any presentation shortcomings.
Building and maintaining self-esteem. A fundamental goal with every evaluation is to motivate the speaker to continue speaking and making progress.
Additional guidelines for a successful evaluation include:
Review the speech objectives and evaluation guidelines before the speech. Ask the speaker if they have particular speaking goals to focus on.
Demonstrate that you are truly interested in the speech and in the speaker’s ability to grow and improve.
Personalize your language. For example, use I statements such as “I suggest” rather than “You should.”
Evaluate the speech – not the person! In other words, evaluate what the speaker does – not what the speaker is.
Promote self-esteem. Encourage and inspire the speaker to participate again by giving: Honest and sincere praise. Positive reinforcement when improvements occur. Helpful direction when necessary.
Always end your evaluation positively.
Toastmasters evaluations are structured to cover speech content and organization as well as presentation skills. Here is an example of an evaluation form:
The forms are fillable PDFs allowing for easy completion, sharing, and uploading. The evaluation criteria for presentation skills are helpful for selecting scores and when combined with specific comments, assist speakers in knowing what they do well and areas for improvement.
Toastmasters further supports growth through peer mentoring.
When you join a Toastmasters club, you will be given the opportunity to have a peer mentor. The Toastmasters mentor program is relatively new to Toastmasters and is becoming a more formalized part of the Toastmasters experience.
A mentor is charged with helping a new member navigate the Toastmasters website, select their first path, prepare for their Ice Breaker speech, and prepare to serve in their first meeting role. Mentors can continue to offer guidance for as long as the mentor and mentee want. The mentor relationship reinforces the benefits of seeking and accepting help.
I did not have a mentor when I joined as it was not part of Toastmasters in 2001. However, I have served as a mentor several times, and each time I have learned along with the new member because teaching and coaching others is one of the best ways to learn.
Serving as an evaluator or mentor not only supports other Toastmasters members in their journey to become better speakers and leaders, they are both important opportunities to grow your own communication and leadership skills.
“We realize that the two most important factors in Toastmasters are Mentoring and Evaluations; there is no doubt that if these two are done well and there is a good Mentoring program, your club will be filled with spark plugs ready to fire upon request. Mentoring and evaluations create enthusiasm, and once you light that fire the only thing it needs is some kindling.” ~ Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, Founder of Toastmasters International
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