Evaluating the Evaluation
As someone who is on the sensitive side of the spectrum, I can tell you that not all constructive criticism lands well. Early in my Toastmaster life, I was eager to hear how my speeches were received. “You move too much on stage,” said one evaluator. “You don’t move enough on stage,” said a different evaluator. “You speak too slow,” opined a fellow member. “You need to slow down your speech,” expounded the fourth evaluator. What I found was that there were a lot of different opinions and not all feedback is warranted. Still, it is important to get an evaluation, for three reasons:
1, if you are speaking in front of a crowd, there will be those that do not agree with your opinion and it is a valuable lesson to learn to develop a barrier to negative feedback. Some call it thick skin. I feel it is putting everything in perspective. If I am stating my opinion, why can’t someone state theirs?
2, evaluations teach self-awareness. Learning to assess the audience and yourself during your speech is invaluable. Before Toastmasters I could not think on my feet and actually could not recall what I said or did on stage. Evaluations give us tools to step outside ourselves and take a look from the audiences’ point of view.
3, there is always room for improvement. Each evaluation has nuggets of truth that will resonate with the speaker when brought to their attention. Little nuances that an audience member could see that the speaker could not.
During our Toastmaster journey, each of us will get evaluations, some better than others, but most will have the best of intentions behind them. An evaluation is one person’s opinion. The speaker should evaluate the evaluation for areas of improvement that make sense and ring true.
I personally had one evaluation from a well-seasoned toastmaster that made me want to quit Toastmasters. He was highly regarded (and still is) and he thought I was seasoned enough to handle a critical critique. He must have thought I was shooting for perfection or a career in public speaking. Neither is close to the truth. I have glossophobia which is the fear of public speaking. My goal is to conquer that fear which I do twice a week in two different clubs. After writing a rebuttal to the evaluation and an entire speech about it (neither has anyone seen), I decided to continue my journey and hope for a better or different evaluator the next time. I must admit I was more than a little nervous, but I survived the next speech and have done many, many more since. I have completed my DTM and had the opportunity to speak on the stage a couple of times at a District Conference.
When we evaluate, understand that people are in Toastmasters for many different reasons. Our main goal is to help the speaker get perspective and point out what they did well. It is more important for the speaker to want to speak again which is how they grow. To presume the evaluation is the mechanism for growth is overly simplistic. It is the repetition and the experience of speaking and listening and providing feedback that creates the growth. After all, there is a very old saying, “Practice makes Perfect.” Striving for perfection has its drawbacks, but there is nothing wrong with getting better. Evaluations help us get better.