Evaluate to Motivate


by Jack M. Kantola, DTM, QS

We Constantly Evaluate

Each of us is an evaluator. From the moment we get up in the morning until we go to bed at night, we are constantly evaluating the people and things around us. It is hoped that through constructive evaluation we may be able to improve the environment in which we live.

Anyone who has spoken before an audience is familiar with some of the basic forms of immediate evaluation. Evaluation transmitted from the audience to the speaker through the use of some easily interpretable cues: smiles, laughs, frowns, whispers, or yawns.  When the speaker receives these cues from the listeners, he or she finds the evaluation simple and direct. For example, if you, as the speaker see your audience yawning, there is a good indication that your talk is not especially interesting to them. But do you know why you are boring your audience? Is the material repetitious? Are you speaking in a monotone? Is the content dull and insignificant? Your listeners have acted as if you failed to communicate, but have offered no suggestions on why or how you could improve!

Evaluations Benefit Speakers

In Toastmasters the assigned evaluator provides both immediate written and verbal feedback to the speaker.  When we judge our own speaking we may be “too close to the forest to see the trees.”  An evaluator can offer a new perspective on our speaking and provide solid information for us to grow on.  Playing up our strong points and improving on our weak points helps us to feel better about ourselves.

Evaluating by the “Tell & Sell Approach”

The most common method of evaluation used in Toastmasters is the “Tell and Sell” approach.  The evaluator talks and the speaker listens.  In this approach the speaker is able to just listen and focus on what the evaluator is saying.

Evaluation Can Take Three Forms 

The Whitewash: One form of evaluation is the “Whitewash” where the evaluator says only good things about the speech.  They may even exaggerate to the good side.  The problem is that the evaluation offers nothing to help the speaker grow in his or her ability to communicate.  While this approach does no real harm it also does no good.

The Super Critical Evaluation: Another form of evaluation is the super critical evaluation where the evaluator says only negative things about the speech and maybe even the speaker.  Again, this evaluation offers nothing to help the speaker grow and may, in fact, discourage further growth.  A speaker will long remember a super critical evaluation but never in a positive way.

Evaluate to Motivate:  Your goal as an evaluator is to provide honest reaction to the speaker’s presentation in a constructive manner, utilizing prescribed guides. When doing this, you must recognize the fact that you are not a professional authority, but you are capable of giving your own reaction to the material presented and the presentation itself.

Always focus on how the speaker is going to benefit from your evaluation. How, through your feedback, can they go on to improve their ability to communicate?

How to Evaluate Effectively

Show that you are interested.  Maintain good eye contact with the speaker during the speech and be an active listener.  Use positive body language to show that you are receptive to the speaker’s message.  Avoid spending too much time writing notes, rather make notes mentally and wait until after the speech to write them down.  Always support the speaker with appropriate applause when they finish speaking.

Before the speech, talk to the speaker.  Discuss with the speaker in advance, if possible, his or her objective for this particular speech and their general goals for improved communication.  Study the evaluation criteria offered in the Toastmaster’s manual for the speech you are evaluating.

Respond to the speaker in terms of his or her affect on you.  Do not tell the speaker what he or she did, but rather what you perceived. Avoid phrases such as, “you did…”, “You were…”, etc.

Use personal statements whenever possible, describing your reactions to the speaker.

Examples:       “I felt…”, “It seemed to me…”, “From my point of view…”, “My reaction was…”, “My impression was…”

Avoid impersonal statements.

Examples:       “They say…”, “One must…”. “People are…”

Avoid judgmental language.  Emphasize that your responses reflect your own reactions and are not absolute truths.   Accept your reactions as your own and not necessarily attributes of the speech or speaker. Attempt to understand and describe, not judge. Avoid “Do’s and Don’ts”, and “Rights and Wrongs”.

Speak for yourself.  Do not assume that the reactions of the rest of the audience are the same as yours.

Use descriptive and personal statements.  Provide specific suggestions for improvements using descriptive, personal statements to give a “How to” approach to the feedback. Phrase your suggestions in terms of the probable effect of their implementation on you and the members of the audience.


“I felt that my reaction would have been such and such if you had done so and so.”

“I believe that you would have accomplished you purpose more easily had you done so and so.”

“My impression is that if you had concentrated on such and such you would have this affect on me.”

Avoid prescriptive and interpretive phrasing of suggestions like, “You should…”, “You must…”, “Don’t…”, “Try to…, “What you really meant is…”, and “You are…”. Where appropriate, demonstrate what you mean.

Promote self-esteem.  Finish your comments with positive feedback by describing a meaningful aspect of the performance in terms of its positive effect on you. Don’t give positive feedback that is not honest and don’t be inappropriately enthusiastic.

Remember that your purpose is to:

  • Determine, using all the resources at your disposal, the general and specific effects of the speaker’s performance on you.  Consider – what I saw, what I heard and what I felt – when assessing the speaker’s presentation.
  • Provide the speaker with information, in the form of descriptive feedback, related to the impact of his or her communicative effort on you.
  • Provide the speaker with suggestions for improvement based upon the possible effects of specific changes or modification in his or her presentation.

Constructive changes grow out of mutual understanding, not judgment.  You, as an evaluator, are not a judge, but rather a potentially useful source of feedback. Judgments or direct evaluations imply superiority. Your superior knowledge and greater experience do not make you a superior person, but rather, a highly credible source of feedback.

Your function is not to change the speaker’s behavior, but to provide him or her with information on the basis of which he or she may consider changing his or her behavior.

Remember that it is your evaluation that closes the loop in the speaker’s process of becoming a more effective communicator and that some other Toastmaster will be performing the same function for you. Each evaluation deserves your best effort.


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