Article Category: Speech Contests

Speech Analysis #5: Toastmasters Evaluation Contests


First Place Ribbon

Many of the techniques described in this series of articles were honed during several years of attending and competing in Toastmasters Evaluation Contests. In both 2006 and 2007, I reached the District 21 finals, taking 2nd place in 2007. [Update: I won the District 21 Evaluation Contest in 2008.]

This article, the fifth in the Speech Analysis Series, inspects Toastmasters evaluation contests from several angles:

  • How does the contest work?
  • Why should you attend?
  • Why should you be a test speaker?
  • Why should you compete?
  • How can you win?

The Speech Analysis Series

Why have Toastmasters Evaluation Contests?

The official contest rules (PDF) state the following motivation for annual evaluation contests:

  1. To encourage development of evaluation skills and to recognize the best as encouragement to all.
  2. To provide an opportunity to learn by observing the more proficient evaluators who have benefited from their Toastmasters training.

How a Toastmasters Evaluation Contest Works

Each evaluation contest follows a simple, standard agenda:

  1. The contest begins with a short speech given by a test speaker.
  2. Contestants watch and listen to the test speaker. Most critique the speech with the help of an evaluation template.
  3. At the conclusion of the speech, contestants are ushered out of the room.
  4. They are given five minutes to review notes. At the end of this period, their notes are gathered.
  5. One at a time, contestants are brought back to the room to deliver a two- to three-minute evaluation, with their notes (if desired).
  6. Judges score each contestant. Scores are tallied to determine the winners.

The contest cycle begins each year at the local club level. Winners then proceed to area, division, and district level contests.

Why You Should Attend a Toastmasters Evaluation Contest

If you are truly interested in improving your speech evaluation skills, I encourage you to attend one or more contests, even if you are not a Toastmasters member (generally speaking, contests are open to the public).

  • Contests are entertaining.
  • Contests are inexpensive. Generally, a nominal fee is charged to cover the cost of refreshments.
  • You can learn from the test speaker (often quite experienced).
  • Contestants are generally quite proficient in the art of evaluation. This is particularly true at higher levels of the contest.
  • The variety of approaches and analytical observations will surely complement your existing evaluation skills. My eyes were opened the first time I attended a contest outside of my club; the observations made by the contestants were very different from the status quo for me.

Why You Should be a Toastmasters Evaluation Contest Test Speaker

A few years ago, I was invited to be the test speaker for a nearby club contest. Prior to this, I had never visited that club. After delivering the test speech, I then listened with fascination as the five contestants evaluated my speech. I learned a great deal from this process.

  • The breadth of comments was much wider than you can get from a single evaluation (or even from a self-evaluation).
  • Receiving multiple evaluations really puts a spotlight on any glaring areas needing improvement. When four of five evaluators suggest you have a weakness in a certain area, then you really need to listen with open ears.
  • As with areas needing improvement, multiple evaluations will also highlight your strongest skills and techniques.

One word of caution – I don’t recommend being a test speaker if you are a very inexperienced speaker. While some people crave as much feedback as possible, others are not yet ready to be reminded that there are so many things for them to improve. It can be a very humbling experience.

Why You Should Compete in a Toastmasters Evaluation Contest

I recommend that you compete the next time you have the opportunity to do so.

  • You will have fun!
  • The added pressure of a contest (and perhaps a new venue) forces you to step outside your speaking comfort zone. By doing so, you will grow, not just as an evaluator, but as a speaker as well.
  • You might win!
  • Whether you win or not, you will learn new techniques from the other contestants.
  • Generally, each level that you advance brings a larger audience.
  • Stage time, stage time, stage time.

How to Win a Toastmasters Evaluation Contest

If you have dreams of winning, then you must familiarize yourself with the judging criteria:

  • 40 points: Analytical Quality
  • 30 points: Recommendations
  • 15 points: Technique
  • 15 points: Summation

Based on my own experience and from conversations with other contestants, judges, and spectators, I think the most common reasons for not winning are:

1. Contestant delivers great “praise” and “areas for improvement”, but neglects specific suggestions to improve. This contestant will score well on Analytical Quality (40 points), but poorly on Recommendations (30 points).

2. Contestant fails to watch the clock and does not have time to summarize — a potential loss of 15 points.

  • Tip: Don’t try to cover everything. Use the five minutes with your notes wisely to pick out only your best points. With my speech evaluation form, I typically capture about twice as many things as I can describe in a 3-minute evaluation.

3. Contestant covers only the points mentioned by other contestants. It is possible to deliver a good (or even great) evaluation, but still score poorly because you will invariably be compared to other contestants.

  • Tip: Hone your speech critique skills. Try to avoid the obvious elements of the speech which all other contestants will notice. Instead, aim to analyze elements many will miss.

4. Contestant has marvelous analysis, but poor evaluation delivery. They score low on the 15 points for Technique.

  • Tip: Based on my personal experience, I think delivery tends to be weighted even higher by most judges. Particularly at higher levels when many contestants are very strong, the contestant with the most dynamic delivery often wins.
The Speech Analysis Series

How about you? Are you an evaluation contest champion? A veteran competitor? A first-time contestant?

Share your evaluation contest experiences and tips in the comments below.

Good luck, and happy evaluating!

This is one of a number of articles related to Toastmasters featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon16 Comments

  1. Linda Schellenberg says:

    You’ve made some really good points here.
    The one thing I never considered before is to look for suggestions other might overlook. In order to win, your evaluation has to “stand out”.
    Therefore, it’s very important to not only point out areas for improvement but to also show how that might be achieved by giving very specific examples.

    I also like to use different words to suggest areas to work on. e.g. Instead of saying “Mike could have used more vivid images to describe the scene” you could change to “What if Mike had painted us a picture of the scene, the color of the ocean, the strength of the wind, described the physical characteristics of the old lady who came to his rescue? I feel that would have helped put the audience right there on the beach with him.”
    Evaluations can be done in many different ways and it takes a lot of experience to be able to be a top-notch evaluator. Entering a contests helps you get there faster!

  2. Great post!!!

    Another factor that i haev used to win evaluation contests is to give reasons for what you are saying. For example, if you are saying, “Rob used great eye contact”, don;t just leave it at that. Add why it was great and what it achieved. For example, “Rob used great eye contact which bought the audience in adn helped us to connect with him and his message”. This shows a greater l;evel of analysis that judges (should) be looking for.

    Cheers

  3. Swaroop says:

    I’m competing as evaluator, and contest speaker at my own club’s contest, and have also been invited as a test speaker by an advanced club..Thanks for these well thought out tips!

  4. shera cohen says:

    hi
    what is the eligibility to compete? have to complete 6 speeches prior?
    thanks.

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Shera:

      The only eligibility requirement for the Evaluation contest is that you are an active Toastmasters member. Be sure to confirm with your club officers if there is any doubt.

  5. Chandana says:

    Thanks a lot. It gave me lot of corrage to prepare for my next competition. You have well prepared and organised all evaluation secrets in attrative manner.

    Best Regards,
    Chandana

  6. Mel Bayo says:

    Thanks for this series Andrew!

    After winning my club Evaluation Contest this year I knew I’d have to beef up for Area so I turned to your blog. Of most help for me have been #3 and #4 in this series. The sandwich technique, templates and particularly the resources from New Zealand have been nothing short of spectacular.

    While consistent practice has been an important contributor, I credit this series as highly influential in helping me earn the opportunity to compete in the 2011 District 36 Evaluation Contest Finals in three days.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work!

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Good luck, Mel.

  7. Mel Bayo says:

    Update from the Contest front:

    My Evaluation was judged as the best one delivered last night at the 2011 District 36 Evaluation Contest Finals!

    To all who find this series in the future: the content ROCKS if you practice hard and integrate it into your own style.

    Thanks again Andrew!

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Congratulations, Mel!

  8. Valerey says:

    Your information is excellent – clear, complete and well organized…

  9. Thanks for this wonderful article. Tomorrow we are having Evaluation Contest at our Club. These inputs are really going to help me.

  10. Romeo says:

    To build credibility and demonstrate expertise, I recommend that the evaluator refer to specific speech projects in the new Competent Communicator manual when pointing out areas for improvement & specific suggestions.

  11. thank YOU! This is of big help for my Evaluation SPEECH CONTEST this TUESDAY! It will be my first EVALUATION speech as a new member of Toastmaster International in our country! ;)))) GOD BLESS YOU! :)))

  12. Karen says:

    Thanks for all the great tips. I am preparing for the Evaluation contest tonight and revising with your blog materials. Really thanks for putting a lot of efforts behind toastmasters.

  13. ToastMASTER P says:

    Hello, I competed in my club’s evaluation contest, where I gave my first ever evaluation, and won. This series was one of the tools that really helped me prepare and feel confident that I could do well. Thank you for all of this great info!

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waynegoode

Wayne Goode @waynegoode — Apr 7th, 2011

#Toastmasters In an Evaluation Contest? This article from @6minutes & the others in the series helped me. http://bit.ly/fDNOoM

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San Clemente 6463 @sct6463 — Sep 11th, 2012

Speech Analysis #5: Toastmasters Evaluation Contests http://t.co/phZQ9Nhs via @6minutes

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