I use the following ten criteria to evaluate classroom speeches. Different speeches may have some additional criteria, but this basic list applies almost universally.

  1. Eye Contact—Does the speaker look (not glance) at the audience regularly (at least once during each sentence)?
  2. Volume—Does the speaker project her voice to easily reach all listeners?
  3. Articulation—Does the speaker pronounce individual consonants and vowels crisply and distinctly?
  4. Posture—Does the speaker keep her back straight, head up, and body steady?
  5. Variety of Tone—Does the speaker raise and lower her voice in natural ways to emphasize meanings, feelings, and changes within the speech?
  6. Physical Movement—Does the speaker use gestures, steps, etc. to emphasize the meaning of her words?
  7. Enthusiasm—Does the speaker show a genuine interest in the topic?
  8. Organization—Does the speaker present her ideas in a logical, understandable fashion?
  9. Introduction—Does the speaker effectively get the audience’s attention at the start, offer a clear thesis statement, and briefly preview the main points of the speech?
  10. Conclusion—Does the speaker effectively summarize the content of the speech and end the speech confidently?

At first, you may look at it and think, “How can I keep track of all that?!” But think for a moment about another really complicated thing you probably do: driving a car. Remembering directions, anticipating stopping distances, hitting the blinker switch instead of the wipers, watching out for other drivers, dodging pheasants… that’s a lot to handle! Yet you manage to drive just fine. The human brain can handle a number of tasks at once; it just takes practice.

Good speaking and good driving also take concentration. On the road or at the podium, if you take a call or text someone, you are much more likely to get in a wreck.

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Some nuts and bolts: I generally evaluate classroom speeches on a five-point scale for each criterion.

  1. Poor
  2. Weak
  3. Fair
  4. Good
  5. Great!

I like this scale, since it gives a relatively clear gauge how your skills stack up. Fair means average. Poor means really poor. Great means really great, the kind of performance that really makes an audience sit up and take notice. But these are not percentages: straight 2s on an evaluation do not translate into a 40%. I will whip up a formula to roughly convert these numbers to letter-grade equivalents.

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