Content-based Evaluation Workshop by TonyD

Content-based Evaluation Workshop by TonyD

For every speech project, including evaluations, you need to craft an “elevator speech”.  The Elevator should focus on one idea and one idea only – the essential idea you want to get across to your audience – in one sentence. And everything that doesn’t relate to your elevator speech, no matter how fascinating or exciting to you, must be eliminated!

As Evaluator you need to address these questions:

  • What has the speaker got to say?
  • What is her point?
  • Why should the speech matter to the Audience?

The answers = CONTENT

and I will suggest some ways for you to evaluate using an audience-centred approach.

You do need to have a point!

In several ways the Evaluation mirrors the Speech:
Content-based approach depends on what the Speaker offers by way of content:  the Evaluator taking a content-based approach depends on what content the Speaker offers.

So, I want to urge speakers and evaluators to engage with the questions:

  • What’s my point?
  • What do I want my Audience to take away?

These questions should inform both the Speech and the Evaluation.
Even the most autobiographical/anecdotal speech needs to offer.

  • A point
  • A thought
  • An insight
  • A perception

– on what it means, say, to learn a foreign language or to experience a new culture.

Becoming Audience-Centred as Speaker and Evaluator

All speaking is about your Audience, not you the Speaker

Remembering that will help you to get out of your own way and overcome nerves. Self-forgetfulness is the secret to great speech-making – focus on what the audience is getting from you.

All speaking is about Persuading your Audience

The essence of giving – notice the verb – a speech is to move people to believe in or act on something: to persuade. The speech is not actually a good format for imparting information. For example, when the Secretary of State for Defence gives a press briefing on Afghanistan, although it might appear to be an informative speech, it’s not really. What’s actually going on is that the Secretary of State wants to persuade the press that the Government is in control, in command of the situation, and that things are going well.

Again, even in the most autobiographical of speeches, you have to persuade the audience that you are worth listening to, that your story has something to say – has something within it that might matter – to them

It’s the same principle behind Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

Leaders and Speakers – all leaders have to be great speakers – have to be able to excite people to be ready to act to achieve great things; it’s also about meaning and making performance meaningful – about the question “What makes your speech matter to your Audience?”

All evaluation is about the Speaker and the Audience, not the Evaluator.

So, all speaking needs to be Audience-Centred

How do you get an Audience-Centred Focus into what you are going to say? Ask:

  • Who is this Audience? (Identity)
  • What questions are on my audience’s mind?
  • What’s worrying (Emotion) my audience?
  • What does my audience fear? (Emotion)  What does my audience want?/envy/covet?/lust after? (Emotion again)
  • What are the expectations (may well be emotional) of my Audience? How can I meet those expectations? How can I challenge them?

If you are doing a talk on how to do an interview, you need to ask yourself:

  • What do they think is the purpose of the interview?
  • What do they believe their task as interviewees is?
  • What is their understanding of the interviewing panel’s mindset?

Inviting your audience to participate will make your speech audience-centred

Let me ask you as Evaluators, when you evaluate a speaker:

  • What’s on your mind?
  • Where’s your attention/focus?
  • What worries you?


Working on the Content – Invention Stage

As a speaker when you are working on content, you are at the Invention Stage – which is distinct from the Structuring Stage (Arrangement). The questions you face are:

  • What is there to say about this topic, event, theme, story?
  • What do I want to say?
  • What will what I say add up to? – What’s my point?

And: how do I answer those questions from my Audience’s point of view?

The fool tells me his reasons. The wise man persuades me with my own – Aristotle

It is vital to understand your audience – its hopes, fears, and aspirations; its socio-economic make-up, its education background, and above all:

  • What do you, the Speaker, have in common with your audience?
  • People like people who are like themselves!
  • What hopes, fears, and dreams do you share with your Audience?

So, as an Evaluator taking a content-based approach, you need to ask:

  • What’s the speaker’s point? – was there one?!
  • What was the theme? – was there one?
  • What was the impact of what she had to say?
  • How did the speech invite the Audience to learn something/re-consider its position on a topic/shift its perspective? – In other words, how did the speaker persuasively invite us to think?
  • How well put was the case?

Then you can move towards asking – how did the speech move, touch, charm, engage, inform us?

Current Toastmasters’ Approach

The Current Toastmasters approach is useful but not enough:
Commend/Recommend/Commend, ref to Objectives of Speech Project, and the Speaker’s personal objectives

In addition, you need to usee the framework set out  in these notes and to ask coaching questions, such as: What’s your point? What’s your elevator? when talking to the Speaker ahead of the speech.

Persuasive Appeal

In thinking about the Invention Stage of the speech, Aristotle identified three lines of persuasive appeal:

  • Ethos –  who you are/what you have done – your credentials
  • Pathos – feeling and emotion
  • Logos – thought, reason, theme, point and argument

Any speech needs all three

And these three provide useful channels through which to hear a speech and a basis from which to build content-based evaluations


I hope it is clear why this Audience-Centred Approach is so important from the points of view of both Speaker and Evaluator.

Guests frequently say they have come to EBS to develop communication/presentation/public speaking skills and Toastmasters claims to be developing leadership skills.

Such development depends on:

  • Having something to say – you’ve got to have something to contribute
  • Or, if you prefer, you have got to bring something to the party by way of content

Speaking/Persuasion/Leading are about ideas/what matters to us/in a sense, the life of the mind

Besides structure and the technical aspects of delivery, Evaluators need to engage with that dimension – you need to provide feedback on

  • what the speaker thinks
  • on the content of what he has said
  • on what it adds up to
  • on the point of the speech

I hope the suggestions I have made will help you to direct your attention and focus to content.

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