How To Win A Toastmasters Speech Evaluation Contest

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I interviewed the 2007 District 36 speech evaluation contest champion, Christine Clapp, on November 30th, 2012.  Though she is a successful educator, keynote speaker, and speaking coach, she graciously shared her deepest insights.
In her words, here are the secrets to winning the Toastmasters speech evaluation contest.  Christine’s overarching theme is that a speech evaluation must have a clear structure.

Tip #1: Craft a positive introduction

“Just like any other speech, a speech evaluation must have an introduction, body, and conclusion.  During the introduction, start off by thanking the speaker and saying something relevant, personal, and positive.  For example, ‘Your speech is such a timely topic.  I completely empathize with you since I too have kids that get sick at the worst times.’”

Tip #2: Focus on content and delivery in the body of your evaluation

“As you transition into the body, provide your audience with a preview of how you are going to move through your evaluation.  Most evaluators just go through a list of things chronologically which can feel chaotic.  I always structure my evaluations with two sections in the body – content and then delivery.  When you structure this way, you set yourself apart.”
“Break each of the two sections into three components.  In the content section, start with one thing the speaker did well.  Second, share one thing they did well but could have done better. Finally, close with one thing that they can improve upon.  Then, repeat those three components in the delivery section.”
“You want to troubleshoot for people by not only revealing an improvement area, but also suggesting a specific example of how to address it.  Each one of your three components should be supported by specific examples from the speech.  Here is an example of sharing one thing the speaker did well but could have done better:  ‘You did well on your gestures when you showed us how you hacked the coconut out of the tree.  But it would have been more impactful had your gestures had been more exaggerated like this (demonstrates).’”

Tip #3: Conclude with a call-back, a call-to-action, and a summation

“When you transition into your conclusion, call back to the positive detail you used during the introduction.  Then, encourage the speaker to apply a relevant call-to-action related to the Toastmasters communication or leadership track.  For example, ’I hope that you consider using this for a humorous speech contents in the future.’  Or, ‘Your story was very well told; you should consider pursuing the Storytelling advanced manual.’  If they delivered a leadership centric speech, you could say: ‘I hope you consider expanding this speech and delivering it as an educational workshop at your regional conference next spring.’”

“Many contestants do not look at the judging ballot which gives 15 out of 100 points for a concise, encouraging summation.  About 1 in 100 evaluation contestants will actually provide a summary of their key points.  For example, ‘And just to review, great job on this and this, and it would be really great if you could focus on this, this, and this in the future.’  Literally doing that one thing alone will help you clear the path to the District if not win your District contest.”

Tip #4: Know where the speaker is sitting

“In a previous District speech evaluation contest that I did not win, I left the room before I saw where the speaker sat down.  That was a big mistake because when I was ushered back into the room and up onto the stage, I was looking in the crowd of 150 people trying to find the speaker.  I did not know where she sat down. “
“When I give an evaluation, I like to look at the person when I start and when I am sharing complements.  Then, when I give suggestions for how the speech could be even more effective, I broaden my eye contact to the entire audience.  In the contest that I lost, I never made eye contact with the speaker.  I felt uncomfortable and my speech seemed weird and disconnected.”
“The year I won, I waited in the room until the speaker sat down.  All the other contestants rushed out. I stood at the door waiting to see where the she sat down. Then, when I came in, I looked at the speaker and thanked her with direct eye contact.”

Tip #5: Mind the time

“Many, many of your competitors will be disqualified by going over 3:30. As with all Toastmasters contests, you need to be very aware of time.”

Try It Out!
Unlike the International speech contest, the Toastmasters speech evaluation contest requires little or no advance preparation.  Next time your club holds an evaluation contest, give it a try following Christine’s winning advice.  Open on a positive note with a relevant personal detail.  Discuss content and delivery separately in the body of the speech providing specific examples and advice.  And finally, conclude with a call-back, a call-to-action, and a summation.