- giving and getting structured, informed feedback
By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 04-24-2021
Did you know that receiving an informed speech evaluation is an invaluable part of developing public speaking competence?
Even though it might seem scary to ask for, and then to receive, specific suggestions and comments about what you've done, how else do you learn what worked and what needs further refinement?
If you want to move forward, to improve your presentation skills, receiving, and giving, good feedback is vital.
Use this page to find out more
you want informative feedback and you're not a member of a public speaking club, this page is for
You'll find out how a speech is formally assessed:
What is a good speech evaluation?
And how do you get one?
Unfortunately there are few situations outside of public speaking programs, like those in schools, or specialist clubs like Toastmasters, where you can get a thorough and useful speech evaluation.
Despite the ability to present well being recognized as a desirable skill it's seldom encouraged with careful, thoughtful feedback.
Often the most you can hope for is a generalized "It was OK", "Great", or the dreaded: "Mmm, perhaps we'll give xxx a turn next time" type of comment.
Nice or nasty, it doesn't tell you anything useful.
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What is rated in a speech evaluation?
The areas most commonly focused on are:
- Did it capture attention & interest?
- Was the topic introduced clearly?
- Was the topic related to the audience?
- Did the speaker have topic-credibility?
- Was the body of the speech previewed?
- Were the main points clear?
- Were the main points supported?
- Were the main points logically presented?
- Were the transitions between main points clear & effective?
- Was the transition to the end of the speech signaled?
- Was there a summary of principal points?
- Was there an effective close and/or call to action?
- Was the language used appropriate for the topic & the audience
- Was the language varied?
- Were the notes, visual aids etc. organized before the start?
- Was the beginning poised?
- Was there good use of eye contact?
- Was the body language (posture & gesture) controlled & effective?
- Was the speaking rate flexible & effective?
- Was the speaking volume appropriate & varied?
- Was there fluency, an absence of fillers like 'ahs' & 'ums'?
- Was vocal variety used, changes in pitch & tone, & good use of pausing?
- Did the speaker show enthusiasm for the topic?
- Were there visual aids & were they appropriate & integrated into the speech?
- Did the speech finish with poise?
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- Did the speaker achieve the assignment's purpose?
- Was the topic researched?
- Did the topic adapt well to the audience?
- Were the audience interested?
- Was the speech completed within the time limit?
How are these areas/aspects rated?
In a formal speech evaluation, such as one done by a teacher in a high school public speaking class, variations on a sliding scale are used.
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The most common is a 5 point scale:
- P (poor)
- F (fair)
- A (average)
- G (good)
- E (excellent)
You can see this scale in use on the downloadable public speaking evaluation form available from the link at the foot of the page.
The person doing the rating will actively listen and watch the speech evaluating each element.
The final assessment will generally show a range (up and down the scale) over most of the aspects. Therefore a speech can be seen to be 'good' in some areas, 'excellent' in others and perhaps 'fair' in one or two.
Getting a thorough speech evaluation
If you're not in a public speaking class or a member of an
organization like Toastmasters International and the people you work
with don't provide criteria-based feedback you have two options.
- find a class or a Toastmasters group in your area.
- organize your own feedback givers using the information outlined above with the suggestions below.
Organizing you own speech evaluators
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- Ask a person whose judgement and maturity you respect whether they'll accept the role, and be present at your next speech or presentation. Perhaps you can team up with them and trade evaluations taking turn about.
- Download and print off several copies of the speech evaluation form.
- Go through the form with your evaluator explaining the process. Highlight any areas you particularly want noticed.
- Establish how you want the rating scale interpreted. A good way to set the benchmark is to listen to an excellent speaker. You could choose one from here: The Top 100 American Speeches
- Have your evaluator listen to your speech and provide feedback before you give it in front of an audience. This will provide a foundation for their comments when they complete your speech evaluation 'proper'.
Working with your speech evalutation
You've got your evaluation. Now what do you with it?
Go through it with your evaluator. Bear in mind before you do:
- that an evaluation is an opinion.
At best it is an informed one with knowledge and experience behind it.
If you find areas you disagree over, do try and understand them from the evaluator's point of view.
Often what we think we do and what we actually do are two different things.
- that a poor or fair rating represents an opportunity to develop rather than a reason to give up public speaking.
Use the ratings as a guide on where to focus your energy.
For example, if you're rated well on the delivery items but have fallen on the content, (introduction, body, conclusion), you know that for your next speech you'll spend the bulk of your preparation time organizing your content.
Keep hold of your completed speech evaluation forms. It's great to be able to refer back to them to see how far you've come and it's interesting to compare how different evaluators pick up on different aspects to comment on.
For more information on the importance of evaluations and the role they play in improving public speaking skills visit Toastmasters International - Effective Evaluation.
I got my first really helpful feedback once I joined Toastmasters. It didn't happen as part of my teacher training, which is extraordinary given that teaching IS presentation.
Neither was it part of other work places I got to know.
Good presentation skills are not innate. Like other skills they need to be learned. Giving and receiving evaluations will speed your progress.
Download a printable speech evaluation form
It's simple to use & suitable for:
- students wanting to know more about the assessment criteria for their prepared speeches
- anybody wanting structured feedback on their public speaking.
The form lists all the important elements that collectively make a successful speech alongside a 5 point rating scale.
Download the speech evaluation form
Do you want to know more about planning, writing and rehearsing speeches?
- Here's a sample speech outline page. It has a handy downloadable blank speech outline form ready and waiting for your notes.
- You'll find more about planning your speech here.
This page takes you through the sequence of planning decisions and shows you how they are guided by knowledge of your audience.
- When you've done all your planning you can find out about how to write your speech
- And then it's fun time. Find out how to rehearse. Yes, practice does make perfect!