Providing feedback is not an easy job: there are many pieces of advice on that so how can be distinguish the good feedback from valuable one?
The most important is to remember that feedback is a tool; a tool that indicates when things are going in the right direction or when a change of approach is needed to get you towards the right one! This tool can praise, can motivate, can make people proud and happy but can also tear them down and make them never ever wanting to have a speech again or do the same activity for which the feedback has been given.
With valuable feedback we want to provide a honest reaction in a constructive manner to the speaker’s efforts so that he feels empowered and motivated to grow.
Let’s review 6 tips I consider the most important to make our feedback valuable:
- Know what you will evaluate in advance. If it is going to be a manual speech make sure you read the assignment, focus on the objectives and also ask the speaker prior to the meeting if he wants you to focus on something in particular. If it is any other role think about what are the important aspects of that role. As in any speech you can apply the general good speech practice: clear message, structure, body language, vocal variety, eye contact.
- Be positive – inject as much as possible positivity without overreacting with it. A well known strategy is the criticism sandwich (popularised by the quote from cosmetics maven Mary Kay Ash):
Sandwich every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise!
- Be honest – if you didn’t like something in speaker’s performance do not say you did. Provide an honest opinion without making it negative as it must be considered a point that can be improved rather than a weakness.
- Be specific! If the speech organisation was confusing at one point, say it but clearly address what confused you and offer a specific suggestion for improvement. Ideally pick the particular confusing part and rephrase to what you would consider clearer.
- Avoid judgement words and phrases such as “good speaker’s don’t…”, “that was a wrong thing to say…”, “if you want to do it right you should”, etc.
- Be mindful about your delivery. You are giving your opinion, friendly, direct in a non-threatening manner. When you conclude make the speaker walk away from the meeting motivated, eager to begin working on his new project. End on a positive note that helps build self-esteem and self-confidence by mentioning something you really liked or had an impact on you.
You can definitely find a lot of information online on Toastmasters.org and remember every time you deliver an evaluation what is important: to know what you are evaluating in advance, to be positive, honest, specific without judging and to be mindful about your delivery.
Practice makes perfect!