How Speech Evaluations Can Make You a Better Auditor

My Background

I have been a member of Toastmasters for nearly 13 years. I started by attending several club meetings as a guest. One of those clubs was South County Toastmasters. A friend, who happened to be a member of the club, invited me and introduced me to the group; that was in November of 2004. Before the year ended, I joined South County Toastmasters.

I left the South County club in January of 2015. I felt I had become complacent – I was “getting stale”, in my own words. I hadn’t made any progress for a while and I felt a change of pace or a change of scenery, or both, might help. I joined Webster Groves Toastmasters in the spring of 2015 and remain an active member.

I have achieved the rank of Advanced Communicator-Silver[1] and very recently earned the rank of Advanced Leader-Bronze. (Before I go further, an explanation is in order. Toastmasters has historically offered members a “Communication” and a “Leadership” track. Naturally, the international organization hopes its members will pursue both tracks.)

I have held several offices with the South County and Webster Groves clubs, including the offices of Club President and Vice-President of Education. In addition, I’ve participated in several club contests (including Evaluation and Humorous Speech contests).

I have also been a “quality professional” for more than 12 years. Introduced to the quality field in 2005, I was first certified as an ISO 9001 auditor in 2006. After that, I helped that employer to develop, implement, and maintain its quality management system in 2007.

I have been self-employed as ISO 9001 auditor and content developer (aka, technical writer and editor) since 2011. I am also a practicing risk analyst (ISO 31000) since 2014.

Over time, I have found that the fields of quality and public speaking overlap significantly. I feel that being an active Toastmaster – giving speeches (or performances) and evaluating others’ speeches – has made me a better ISO 9001 auditor, and vice versa. Here’s what I mean.

What Is a “Speech Evaluation”?

Part of every Toastmasters club meeting is devoted to “prepared speeches”. That’s just a part of what being a Toastmaster is about – continually practicing in front of a friendly audience to improve one’s speaking skills and gain self-assurance.

When we give a speech or performance, we are evaluated by our fellow club members. Before giving a speech, we’re each assigned an evaluator. The evaluator’s job, in addition to evaluating the speech, is to present their evaluation orally during the meeting.

The Toastmasters evaluation method is explained in an official document, “Evaluate to Motivate”. According to that document, the keys to an effective evaluation are:

  1. Discussing the speech with the speaker prior to the presentation;
  2. Showing your interest in the speaker’s needs and wants;
  3. Personalizing your evaluation, making it clear you are presenting your opinions;
  4. Evaluating the speech, not the speaker; and
  5. Promoting the speaker’s self-esteem without sugarcoating the evaluation.

Speech evaluations are typically structured this way:

  • The evaluator begins by thanking the audience and the speaker, then telling them what they believe the speaker did well. What were the speaker’s objectives, according to the manual? Did they have additional personal objectives? In the evaluator’s opinion, did the speaker meet their objectives? Did the speaker seem do the “little things” well (e.g., eye contact, voice projection and variety, hand gestures, facial expressions), as well as the “big things” (getting their message across, engaging and establishing rapport with the audience, etc.)?
  • The evaluator tells the speaker what they feel the speaker could do to improve their speech or their delivery. In other words, they point out opportunities for improvement. The evaluator must make it clear to the speaker and the rest of the audience that they are offering their opinions. Other club members – and visiting guests – may have seen things the evaluator did not. We all have different frames of reference – life experiences that are often slightly different and sometimes wildly different. We have personality differences, as well.

That’s why we encourage all members present to record their observations and pass them on to the speaker.

  • The evaluator quickly sums up their evaluation, congratulates the speaker for their effort and improvements, and returns control of the lectern to the General Evaluator.

What Is an ISO 9001:2015 Audit?

Before I go into a brief explanation of the ISO 9001 audit for the uninitiated, let’s look at what the speaker and the organization have in common. They both have expressed the need and desire to improve.

Undoubtedly, the motivation to improve is stronger in some organizations than in others – which has everything to do with top management – but they all get involved with ISO 9001 quality management systems to improve something. They sense the need to improve their processes and the results of those processes. Whether they’re offering manufactured items or services – or both – they know there is room for improvement in the process of designing, making, and delivering. Improve the process and, invariably, you improve the result.

Organizations are often looking for more than just process and product improvement. They’re also looking for validation. They want to demonstrate their competence and their conformance to a recognized standard to hold onto their current clients and gain additional business.

What does an ISO 9001 audit consist of? It’s a reasonably objective evaluation of one organization’s quality management system. Objective, in the sense that the organization is required to provide objective evidence of their compliance with the requirements of the standard. ISO 9001 requires that organizations keep records of their activities, monitor and measure their performance, evaluate their performance, and commit to ongoing improvement.

The time it takes to conduct an audit will vary according to the size, scope, and complexity of the organization. I generally work with small companies[2], so I typically get through an internal audit in 2-3 days, including the audit report. In contrast, it takes me no more than 15 minutes to watch and listen to a speech, organize my notes, and give an oral report on the speech.

There are two venues for my typical ISO 9001 audit: My office, where I prepare for the audit (including document reviews[3]) and write the report after I’ve completed the audit, and the client site, where I further review records and documents, witness or observe key processes, interview top management and line workers, and give an oral report on the results of the audit.

To become a certified ISO 9001 auditor, I need to take a 4- to-5-day auditor training course and sit for an auditor certification exam at the end of the course. Auditor certifications are good for three years. To maintain my certification, I need to conduct a minimum number of audits during a 3-year period, submit my audit log, and take a refresher course. When an ISO standard is significantly revised (as ISO 9001 was in 2015), I am required to take another examination.

The Key Differences Between Speech Evaluation and Quality Auditing

Toastmasters does not offer evaluator certifications; club members are expected to perform evaluations just as they are expected to take on every other role in a regular meeting. It is solely up to the member as to what (if any) roles they assume at meetings, how active they are in the club, how far they want to go along the Communication and Leadership tracks, and whether they take leadership roles. It is also up to the individual whether and how they work at becoming a better evaluator.

Toastmasters International says that learning how to evaluate a speech is as important as learning how to give a speech, and I agree wholeheartedly with that. However, speech evaluations are not a formal or integral part of Toastmasters’ Communication track.

Evaluators, like auditors, must work on their powers of observation. They must sharpen their senses and learn how to watch, listen, analyze, and communicate, all with an open mind. The knowledge, experience, and skills required to be a competent speech evaluator – especially the observational skills – are also required to be a competent ISO 9001 auditor, team leader, and manager.

Shaping my Ability, Performance, and Confidence as an Auditor and Evaluator

I estimate that I have averaged between six and ten speech evaluations per year, based on the last two. I’ve evaluated seven speeches this year, including two evaluations in one day.

I do this because I am passionate about evaluating speeches. I believe that an effective evaluation is as critical to the speaker’s understanding and growth as speaking itself.

As I continue to progress as an evaluator and auditor, I become more aware and more sensitive to the needs and requirements of those I evaluate or audit. Their requirements are similar and unique. Their governing bodies dictate certain minimum goals and objectives, while they set their own personal objectives.

The biggest takeaways? Treat the speaker and the organization you’re evaluating with the utmost courtesy, fairness, and respect. Do your job to the best of your abilities. And remember, you are always giving your opinion of what works and what doesn’t, based on your perceptions as well as your knowledge and experiences.

At the End of the Day

Learning to evaluate the Toastmasters way can make you a more effective auditor, manager, and leader. Learning to conduct an audit the ISO way can make you a better evaluator. Finally, learn how to use the results of an audit or evaluation to become a much better communicator.


[1] I’m “aboutthisclose” to earning the rank of Advanced Communicator-Gold.

[2]  For example, fewer than 50 employees/contractors, a limited number of products/services, private rather than public, etc.

[3] Sometimes referred to as a “desk audit”


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Posted in auditing guidelines, Education and Training, ISO 9001 audit, Leadership, Toastmasters

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