Whether writing an evaluation of a recent or historical speech or critiquing the efforts of a Toastmasters colleague, the critic should pay attention to certain universal benchmarks. For example, speakers should demonstrate a clear grasp of the subject matter and use words effectively. When offering an evaluation of a speech, the critic should note what worked well and what needed improvement. The "sandwich technique" of evaluating speakers suggests leading with a positive, adding what could be improved upon and finishing with more positives.
Speeches come in three main types, and each has a different goal. An informative speech seeks to educate the listener about an idea, process or product. The first speech that many presenters give is at show and tell in grade school. These are informative presentations in which the lecturer describes an item. A persuasive speech seeks to inspire action from the audience. Political speeches are often of this nature; a politician seeks votes from constituents, or the president seeks action from Congress. An occasion speech celebrates a special event. These events can range from the opening of a hospital wing to toasting the bride and groom at a wedding. When writing a critical analysis of a speech, the critic should consider which of these objectives the presentation sought to accomplish and decide whether it worked.
When assessing a speech, the critic should consider the speaker's audience. The content of the speech may vary depending on whether the speech maker is presenting to a room of 10 or 1,000. The critic should also consider whether the speaker connected with the demographic he hoped to reach or whether the audience's age, interests, geographical location or political orientation made them less receptive to his message. Sometimes a speech has a secondary audience if it's expected to be disseminated throughout the larger community via word of mouth, traditional media or social media.
A speech contains three parts -- an introduction, body and conclusion. When evaluating a speech, the critic should consider whether the introduction was effective and whether the speaker "grabbed" the audience with an interesting anecdote or amusing comment. The body of the speech should contain facts and statistics that support the speaker's case or illustrate her point. A successful conclusion will sum up the presentation and reiterate the key points of the speech.
Speechmaking is a form of theater. The evaluator should consider whether the speaker made good use of slides, props, body language and other visual aids. A critique should judge whether the presenter was relaxed and used her voice effectively. The style of delivery should complement the content of a speech. Silly props may be appropriate for an occasional speech at a community theater awards banquet, but it could be an unfortunate choice for a city council person outlining the annual budget. The critique should consider whether the medium fit the message.
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