Saturday, August 30, 2008

Brutally Honest and Caring Evaluations

As the Evaluation Contests progress from the club level to the area level all around Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, I am reminded of the real reason for giving evaluations... to learn new ideas that you can use in future speeches and improve you speaking skills!

Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, gave me an interesting idea in his recent newsletter that could apply to the upcoming evaluation contests and anyone who wants to give (and get) excellent evaluations that help you improve.

Brutal, Honest . . . Caring?
by Darren LaCroix

How do you know if people truly care about you? Seriously? Is it when they're nice to you? How do you feel when someone tells says, "You've got something in your teeth." Do you want to know?

... At our last coaching camp, one of the attendees told me they'd heard I was "mean" when giving feedback. Really? At first I got defensive. Then it dawned on me that I'm no different. Receiving feedback is different from each individual. Different people will take the same exact feedback in a different
way. What is the "purpose" of the feedback? To show that you're better? Or to help grow?

... Some presenters are surrounded by people who can't give them a higher level of feedback. They're the "king" of their club, and they may be content with that. This is probably pretty good for their self-esteem, but it's not good for their growth. What kind of people are you surrounded by? Are they helping you grow?

.... How do you look at feedback from people who have more expertise than you?

... No mentor ever "niced" me to the next level.
Darren brings up a good point... growth comes from feedback... but the one part he does not touch on is that it is equally important to present the feedback in a manner that will be accepted.
Here are some ideas you might want to consider the next time you give an evaluation ...

- A lot of people use the "Sandwich Technique" (a constructive criticism with a compliment on either side) but I've often seen evaluators who are overly harsh with their "constructive criticism" and insincere with the compliments. This effectively defeats the whole idea of the Sandwich Technique.

- The "Simple Suggestion Technique" is another idea where you simply phrase your "constructive criticisms" as suggestions or ideas that you (the evaluator) might have tried. This takes the emphasis off of doing something WRONG (which is harsh and raises the speaker's defenses) and puts the emphasis on trying something DIFFERENT.

- Another way is the "Clean Slate Approach" where you start with "Here are some suggestions for your next speech... " This helps take the focus off of what went wrong in this speech and puts it on the next speech (which is a clean slate). The speaker will be less defensive about his or her next speech and may actually use your suggestions (which is really the mark of an effective evaluation).

- The "Challenge Approach" works with some speakers, but not with all. It can be started "With everything you did right, the one thing that would take your speaking to the next level is ..." This statement should grab the speaker's attention and may even motivate them to see if they can really "take their speech to the next level" !

- The "Perception Approach" starts out with "My perception of your speech is that ...." This is especially good when you want to address the speaker's theme or overall goal for the speech. If the speaker did not clearly get his or her key points, this will be an important skill for them to develop and will show incredible improvements in future speechs (if they are given a good evaluation and they take it to heart).

These "lead-in's" can help you present the feedback ... without turning off the speaker. There are also variations on these as part of the Toastmasters Module, "Evaluate to Motivate" which is a great [pre-written] speech that anyone can edit (to "make it your own") and give to your club.

What about the Speaker?
Of course, as Darren points out, it is still the speaker's responsibility to be open to the suggestions (that's all they really are) and incorporate what makes sense.

Evaluations can be emotionally charged and it is important to do them well so that the speaker improves and the audience can learn from the evaluation as well.

Contests too !
How was your club's Evaluation contest? Be sure to attend your Area and Division contests to see some excellent evaluations and, of course, you will want to attend the District 53 Fall Conference on October 10th & 11th to see the winners compete for the top prize for evaluations !

Advanced Evaluations:
If you already have your CC and want an even higher level of evaluation for your speeches, you might want to consider joining one of the Advanced Clubs in District 53...
  • DiversityUSA Advanced Club, Ridgefield (CT) Library,
    meets on the 4th Thursday, 7:15-8:45pm.

  • ProSpeakers, Springfield (MA) Chamber of Commerce
    meets on the 3rd Thursday 6:30-8:30pm.

  • Central CT Advanced Toastmasters, meetings 4th Wed @ NU, Berlin, CT
  • NEW Advanced club forming... Capital Advanced Toastmasters, South Saratoga Chamber of Commerce office, near Albany, NY. Meets the 1st Monday of the month, 6:30-8:00pm. Contact Melinda Burns at mburns14 [at] for more info.

No comments: