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What's a 'REAL' evaluation
by Hubert Lin
Listening to a speech is a subjective experience. A passage that is clear and persuasive to Tom might not have as much impact or can be confusing to Jane. Perhaps Tom had had similar experiences to the speaker, and therefore could relate to what the speaker was talking about. But Jane did not have the benefit of shared history and was missing some important background information. If an audience is homogenous and share the same experience and knowledge, their reaction to the speech may every well be similar—either similarly persuasive, or similarly confusing. That is why public speaking, or communication in general, is not about how the speaker delivers the message, but it’s about how the listener perceives the message. This is what makes public speaking so dynamic and exciting: the process of figuring out how the audience would feel, especially when they are from a different background than the speakers themselves.
When it comes to speech evaluation, especially at Toastmasters, it is easy to fall into the trap of assuming there is a standard, an objective measurement. One particular dangerous and yet common trap is the assumption that advanced speakers cannot benefit from the feedback of beginner speakers. Because Toastmasters clubs often have members who are at different levels of their Toastmasters career, this misconception about evaluation is particularly counterproductive to the development of speakers and the growth of the club. Advanced speakers would feel that they have little need of the club, and leave for ‘advanced’ clubs, or leave the organization entirely. Now, of course we realize we deliver speeches in our Toastmasters club for the purpose of preparing ourselves for the ‘real-world’ presentations, right? So are we saying that in the real world, our audiences are all advanced speakers? In the context, I would argue, the most valuable feedback are from: