Wednesday, August 8, 2018

A discussion about giving feedback to speakers that only gets a grade of D

On August 6, 2018 at LinkedIn Pulse Joel Schwartzberg published an article titled A Better Way to Give Speaker Feedback: The 3 Ds. He said most people don’t know how to evaluate a speaker. Then, after some faint praise for Toastmasters International, he gave his guide:

“My recommendation focuses on the speaker’s most important task – delivering a point – and the decisions that the speaker makes to accomplish it, concentrating on the three critical Ds: Delivery, Distraction, and Detraction.

Delivery       Did the speaker’s decision to do X support the delivery of her point?

Distraction  Did the speaker’s decision to do X distract the audience from her point?

Detraction   Did the speaker’s decision to do X detract from the effective delivery of her point?

These questions can be applied to speaker decisions on everything from speech organization, point clarity, and word choice to pacing gestures, and movement. The key is not to measure each decision for its own sake (‘Did she gesture well?’) but as a tactic toward the one vital goal of conveying her point (‘Did her gestures emphasize the point or were they a distraction?’)”

I don’t like his 3Ds at all. If you look at the Merriam-Webster thesaurus, you will find that distract and detract are synonyms. Also, delivery without content is meaningless.

But Joel didn’t really get to the point with another 3 Ds - a Depth (of research resulting in) Details (and a) Deliverable. An evaluator needs a rubric with a ready-to-use form and instructions for evaluating a speech. Some excellent rubrics already exist.

Back in 2007 the National Communication Association published the second edition of The Competent Speaker Speech Evaluation Form. It has eight competencies (four each on content and delivery) and describes criteria for three levels (Excellent, Satisfactory, and Unsatisfactory). Pages 11 through 16 of the pdf file contain the forms and instructions. For example, speech organization, the fourth competency is:

“Uses an organizational pattern appropriate to the topic, audience, occasion, & purpose.”

For Excellent it says that:

“The speaker uses an appropriate introduction and conclusion and provides a reasonably clear and logical progression within and between ideas. (That is the introduction clearly engages a majority of the audience in an appropriate and creative manner, the body of the speech reflects superior clarity in organization, and the conclusion clearly reflects the CONTENT of the speech and leaves the audience with an undeniable message or call to action).”

There also is a newer Public Speaking Competence Rubric (PSCR) which I blogged about back on July 9, 2012 in a post titled A new scale (rubric) for evaluating speeches. That scale has nine performance standards (and two optional ones) ranked on a five-point scale (Deficient = 0; Minimal = 1; Basic = 2; Proficient = 3; Advanced = 4).   

Joel Schwartzberg is a member of Toastmasters, and he has written four articles in Toastmaster magazine. In the present LinkedIn Pulse article he had said that:

“Toastmaster members have access to pages of assessment advice and a wide range of evaluation questions. That’s good training for a Toastmaster Evaluator to give an official Evaluation Speech. But in the real world, the targets are different, and one’s a bulls-eye.”

He linked to the web page for purchasing Item 317, Giving Effective Feedback, rather than to the web page for downloading it free. He did not mention Item 202, Effective Evaluation, a basic document that was furnished to every new Toastmaster.

Nor did he mention a course called The Art of Effective Evaluation, which has another speech evaluation rubric (Individual Speech Evaluation Form) you can find on a club web site. That rubric has categories ranked on another bipolar five-point scale (Needs Considerable Improvement  = 1; Needs Some Improvement  = 2; Acceptable = 3; Very Good = 4; Excellent = 5). Joel didn’t give us a numerical scale for including Distraction (or Detraction). Perhaps it should be bipolar as follows: (Distracts Considerably = 1; Distracts Some = 2; Acceptable = 3; Helps Some = 4; Helps Considerably = 5).     
Neither did he mention how evaluations are being done in the new Pathways educational program, a topic that I blogged about on April 3, 2018 in a post titled Speech evaluation rubrics: how many levels should be on the scale, and which way should it point.

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