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Why Evaluate?


Why Evaluating is Important

         Public speaking is all around us, whether it be in a video, on the internet, or a coach giving a pregame pep talk. Evaluating speeches helps to improve and enhance our understanding of common speechmaking practices. Whether you realize it or not, each time you listen to someone speak, you are subconsciously evaluating them based on your own set of values and personal frame of reference. Evaluation goes farther than what you feel, though. As an evaluator, you are passing judgment based on set, often unwritten, criteria in addition to your personal frame of reference. Evaluating (or reviewing) speeches is the act of assessing a message’s impact and appropriateness while offering productive advice on areas of improvement. Evaluation helps to shine a spotlight on the meaning of a message and create understanding. The more we evaluate, the more we learn, and the more we can apply best speaking practices to our own speech. 

Reviewing Yourself

          When you review yourself, you have the opportunity to reinforce the principles of what you are doing well and to improve upon what you may not have done well. Always record your speeches and your practice sessions. Watching a video recording of yourself can be uncomfortable but is vital to your improvement. As you watch yourself, give yourself permission to be objective and critical. Take notes as you watch your video. Note what you did well. Note what you struggled with. When you review yourself, think of what you did and chart a course of action to improve.

Think of these things: 

          Did you feel that you were well prepared for this speech? How could you change your preparation for next time? What information did you find out about your audience in your analysis? How can you incorporate those points to make a stronger impact with your listeners? Did you address what is in it for the audience?

          Was your speech well organized? What pattern of organization did you use? Why did you use this pattern? Was your central idea or thesis and preview clear, distinct, and concise for your listeners? If not, what can you do next time to help your listeners identify your thesis and preview? Was it noticeable when you were transitioning from one point to the next? Why or why not was it noticeable? Did you establish your personal credibility? How did you tell your audience of your credibility? What type of introduction did you use? Was it effective? Why or why not? What type of conclusion did you use? Was it effective for your audience? Why or why not? What were the different types of support/evidence that you used in your speech? Were they impactful? Were they clear, relevant, and valid? Why or why not? What can you do next time to further support your claims and evidence?

          If your speech used a visual or aural aid, how was it used? Did it enhance your message, or did it distract your audience? Why do you feel it did this? What can you do next time to improve its effectiveness? Was your aid an integral part of the presentation? Or was it an afterthought? Did you practice using the visual/aural aids? What will you do next time to improve your presentation aids and their use? 

          How was your delivery? Verbally, did your vocal energy/interest remain constant? Did you sound passionate? Why or why not? What can you do to improve your passion? Did you deliver an extemporaneous style presentation or were you reading from a manuscript or notes? Why do you think you utilized this presentation style? Was it effective? Will you use it again? Did your speaking notes help you deliver your speech? Were you able to remember what you wanted to say based on keywords? Or did you write out your speech on your notecards? Did this style help or hinder your presentation? Did you engage your audience? Did this help you to deliver an impactful speech? How can you improve your verbal delivery next time?

          Nonverbally, did you make eye contact with the entire audience? Did you “see” them? What can you do next time to improve your eye contact? Were you dressed for success? Did your outfit reflect the values of the speech? Why did it? Why didn’t it? Did you have an intentional nonverbal message? Why did you choose to incorporate one? Were there unintentional messages sent? How can you improve your nonverbal delivery next time?
How was your audience’s interest? Did they seem attentive? Why or why not? What can you do to increase their attentiveness? 

Reviewing Others

          There will always be instances throughout your life when you will need to evaluate others’ speeches. A good rule of thumb is to give the type of feedback you’d like to receive. Don’t be overly critical of the speaker. Use “I” language whenever possible. 

Example: “As an audience member, I did not notice clear transitions between points.” 

          Avoid “you” language as it sounds accusatory. 

Example: “You didn’t have any transitions.”

          Rather than saying “you were always looking down,” consider saying: “I noticed you didn’t look up very often.” Be specific on areas of improvement. Comments such as “that was bad” fail to provide specific areas of correctable actions. Be helpful. We know saying the good and neglecting the bad is the easy way out. Instead, offer helpful comments that will improve the speaker’s ability to deliver an impactful speech. 

Example: “I think when you gave us the information on voting, it could have been a little more specific. Possibly including a story or example for us might have helped us understand it better.”

Think of these things when evaluating a person’s speech:

          Did the speaker make the speech relevant to the audience? How did the speaker connect the topic to the audience’s interests?

          Was the speech well organized? Was a pattern of organization evident? Was their central idea or thesis present? Did the speaker include a preview? What about transitions? Was the speech easy to follow? Why was it? Why wasn’t it? 

          How were the main points supported? Did the speaker use descriptions, examples, stories, statistics, personal stories and references, etc.? Was the support relevant? Did it enhance the overall speech? Why or why not?

          How was the speaker’s delivery? Did they maintain good eye contact, tone, rate, stance? Did the speaker move too much? Too little? Do you feel they spoke with you or at you? 

          Was the speaker confident in their speaking abilities? Do you feel the speaker was well prepared? What could they do to improve their preparedness and delivery? 

          Were visual/aural aids used in the presentation? Did they enhance the message? Did they take away from the message? Did the aids feel like an integral part of the presentation? Did they appear to be an afterthought? 

          What are the strengths of the speaker? What are their weaknesses? What could they do to improve their speaking ability?

Accepting Criticism

          No one likes to be told what they are doing wrong. Nevertheless, learning to accept criticism is important to our success as public speakers. Whether it be from a classmate, your instructor, or an audience member, it is important to recognize the feedback they are giving to you is meant to help you. Don’t take feedback personally, rather take it as an opportunity for improvement. If your peer mentions not hearing a clear pattern of organization, they are not trying to insult you, they want you to improve. If you receive feedback that doesn’t make sense to you, ask your evaluator to explain or offer advice on what could be done differently. Criticism is not always bad!

Review Questions

1) Why is it important to evaluate speeches?

2) What are some things to think about when you evaluate yourself?

3) Why should you avoid "you" language when evaluating others?

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