Public Speaking Tips: On Toastmaster Evaluations

The writer enjoying addressing a non-Toastmaster Audience

When speaking outside of Toastmasters, the evaluations come in the form of claps, smiles, and approaches to speak at further meetings.
When speaking outside of Toastmasters, the evaluations come in the form of claps, smiles, and approaches to speak at further meetings.

A recent Toastmaster Workshop.

Welcome to Public Speaking Tips: Toastmaster Evaluations.

I recently attended a Toastmaster workshop on evaluation. There were two presenters and they had plenty of good material. Problem was they went too long without sufficient breaks. They also tended to divert away from the main subject matter a little too often. Be that as it may, the initial presenter brought up a very valid point. Toastmaster evaluations are, in the main, both too shallow and too brief- far too brief.

The upcoming speaker can put in an awful lot of preparation.

Take the typical speech being prepared by a Toastmaster. Generally he or she has to present for a period of five to seven minutes. The preparation for such a speech might run into several hours spread over weeks prior to the actual event. They're coming up with a speech topic, writing it; then mental rehearsal, practice at home. It’s not uncommon for the upcoming speaker to put in anywhere between ten to fifty hours, depending upon how conscientious and/or nervous they are. I think in my first few speeches, presented over thirty years ago, I would have spent over twenty hours in preparation, including rehearsal - perhaps longer.

But then again, I was a very nervous starter.

One of those innumerable T.M. speech competitions

Writer receiving a certificate at Area 45 Contest in 2009.
Writer receiving a certificate at Area 45 Contest in 2009.

Then comes that evaluation...

Okay, maybe a lot of Toastmasters don’t put in that long in preparation. Let’s be generous and say that they use up only ten hours. Ten hours! And they speak for six-and-a-half minutes. Then comes the evaluation.

So let’s take a look at a typical three-minute evaluation. The audience is told what the speaker spoke about. This takes up a full minute. The speaker knows what he or she spoke about, so does the audience, but invariably the evaluator mentions it anyway – if only to fill in time.

The speaker is told what he/she did well. This takes roughly a minute. This is good stuff, particularly if the speaker needs this sort of bolstering.

Definitely a 'test the camera' shot.

Yours truly at 74.
Yours truly at 74.

I look forward to hearing......speak again.

The opening and final words of the evaluator often are: “Thank you, Madam Toastmaster, Toastmasters and guests... It was my pleasure tonight to evaluate, Joe Blow, with his speech about...

Final words: “But overall a good speech. I look forward to hearing Joe speak again” Another twenty seconds are used up in these niceties.

This leaves forty seconds for the evaluator to actually give the speaker some solid feedback as to how to improve and perhaps demonstrate how to do it. Yep, around forty seconds - if the speaker is lucky and the evaluator doesn’t give the usual stereotype stuff about:

“not enough eye contact.”

“You favoured the right hand side of the room, “ and

“You walked around a bit too much.”


Speaking Tips: On Toastmaster Evaluations.

All valid, perhaps for the novice. Exasperating for the advanced speaker who actually wants to hear some subtler ways in which to improve.

Okay, let’s be generous. Let’s say the evaluator is excellent and actually manages to present an indepth two minute critique on how to improve. It’s still only three minutes! Compare three minutes to ten hours of preparation... Do you see what that workshop presenter was getting at?

Tom and his T.M. club's Banner

The writer at 73.
The writer at 73.

I've belonged to a number of P.S. organizations.

Over the years I’ve belonged to a number of speaking organisations: The National Speakers Association of Australia, Rostrum Clubs of New South Wales, and the Australian Storytellers Guild, as well as Toastmasters. NSAA does not have evaluations. Neither did the ASG. And Rostrum had a special person trained to present evaluations. But what NSAA and ASG did have were plenty of ‘How to”-type workshops.’ And maybe that’s what we in TMI should opt for; maybe not in all of our club environments, but perhaps in a new series of ‘Advanced Toastmaster Clubs.’ Just a thought.

But to get back.


How much do we really learn this way?

How much do we really learn from listening to our evaluators? In the initial stages, when we’re subject to great stage fright, the praise and encouragement works wonders. If done right, it fills the tyro speaker with confidence, imbues the desire to go on. It certainly did with me. But what happens after that Toastmaster has given a dozen speeches? Thirty? Fifty? Do they really learn by listening to their evaluators? Or do they learn more by watching experienced and recognized good speakers, then emulating what they like about them. Watching, observing what top speakers do, is how most of us learn, I suspect. Watching ourselves – if we can get hold of a video of ourselves – is an even more effective way.

The best way if you're fairly advanced is...

The best way, I think, and I’ve only just discovered it after all these years, is to have a public speaking coach. A coach will tell you and show you how to improve. Then they’ll get you to act it out. Not only that, they will really focus on you (unlike the average Toastmaster evaluator, who is often more concerned about how they are coming across) giving you their entire attention. You might have to pay for that attention if you go to someone who earns their living by this method – but you really will learn, and learn quickly.

Mixing with the Heirarchy.

The Barnhill's either side of Tom at the Area 73 Toastmaster Convention in the Adelaide Hills, in 2008.   The Barnhills were both Presidents of TMI at one time or another.
The Barnhill's either side of Tom at the Area 73 Toastmaster Convention in the Adelaide Hills, in 2008. The Barnhills were both Presidents of TMI at one time or another.

Are mentors able to provide this service?

Are Toastmaster Mentors able to provide this sort of service? Well, not really. A better way is to become part of a small group who are dedicated to giving honest feedback. People you know who won’t pull their punches. But being part of that sort of thing is another topic altogether. So to get back:

I think the tenor of this article expresses my views

Three-minute evaluations by Toastmasters? Well, they have their place. After all, they’ve been around since Toastmasters was founded. But how much do these evaluations really contribute to the overall improvement of our members ability to present in the longer term?

I think the tenor of this article expresses my views.

I hope you enjoyed Speaking Tips: Toastmaster Evaluations.

Tom Ware. DTM.

Dundas TMC 70/2692


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida

It must be frustrating for those who invest so much time and energy in their speech to get, as you say, less than a minute of real feedback. (Kind of like the cook who spends hours preparing a feast to see it gobbled down in two minutes.)

Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 4 months ago from Sydney, Australia Author

On reading through this Hub five years after I wrote it my views on Toastmaster evaluations remains unchanged.

pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 weeks ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

I believe it was around 1992 when I attended my first Toastmaster workshop. I did go to several more and found them enlightening. Unfortunately, due to a demanding job and the hours involved I was no longer able to attend. I did learn quite a lot though.

Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 2 weeks ago from Sydney, Australia Author

Thanks for your feedback, Pagesvoice2. My apologies for taking so long to respond. This is the first time I've looked at this Hub in a long while.

Thanks again.

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