The only way to really improve at public speaking is to go through many cycles of speaking, receiving feedback from evaluation, and then speaking some more. Just staring at yourself in the mirror, listening to an audio recording, or looking at a videotape of yourself won’t get you very far.
What is needed is honest, prompt feedback given by peers in a supportive manner. That is one reason I am in Toastmasters.
One of the pillars of the Toastmasters program is prompt feedback on each speech. Each speaker at a meeting is assigned an evaluator. The evaluator provides both a 2 to 3 minute verbal evaluation and additional written comments in the manual. Meanwhile the other club members are also providing brief written comments on 1-1/4 by 4-inch slips of paper.
Evaluation is tricky. The cover of the November 2007 issue of Toastmaster magazine said what it should be with the succinct phrase “Giving courage through encouragement”. One way to do that was stated years ago by Mary K. Ash: “Sandwich every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise”. Some Toastmasters refer to this process as: Commend –Recommend – Commend. This year Tom Fishburne said it more humorously in a Brand Camp cartoon.
The topic is covered briefly in a little 2-page tri-fold brochure titled “Speech Evaluation: How to Give Effectively” from Toastmasters District 22 in Western Missouri & Kansas. It is just one of a series of items which you can download from their website.
Giving and receiving evaluation is a perennial topic among advanced Toastmasters. Last year it was the featured topic in the February and November issues of Toastmaster Magazine. You can also find nine articles from Toastmaster posted at the website of Westside Toastmasters in Los Angeles:
“The 3Rs of Evaluating: Review, Reward, and Respond” (Nov 2007)
“What? A Standing Ovation for an Evaluation?” (Nov 2007)
“Three Points to Keep Your Evaluation on Target” (Feb 2007)
“If Only I’d Said…(mastering the art of self evaluation)” (Feb 2007)
“Learning to (Almost) Like Criticism” (Feb 2007)
“Want to Win an Evaluation Contest?” (Jan 2005)
“Build Your Skill in Evaluating Speeches” (Nov 2002)
“The Collaborative Speech Evaluation” (Nov 2002)
“Dealing with a Bad Speech Evaluation” (Nov 2002)
If you prefer videos to reading, there are a couple excellent presentations which you can watch on YouTube. Warwick John Fahy spoke for 10 minutes on “The Heart of Evaluation” at Shanghai Peoples’s Square Club Toastmasters in Shanghai, China. There also is a 40-minute Speech Evaluation Seminar given by someone from EmergingSpeakers up in Canada. Due to time limits for posting it is broken into four chunks: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.