Rubric Tips For Public Speaking

Evaluating soft skills like public speaking can be tough, especially across multiple speakers. A rubric keeps your evaluation on track by using standardized criteria, which will help you maintain consistent scoring and feedback for all speakers. This adds a layer of fairness for speakers while still allowing evaluators to fully access their judgment and expertise within the common constraints.

What’s a rubric anyway?

Rubrics (or “scorecards” for those of you outside academe) are paper or electronic forms spelling out the dimensions on which a speaker’s performance will be assessed.

It’s common to include a particular category of assessment and a rating scale. For instance, one category might be Clarity of Message, which is then rated on a scale of 1-5. Another might relate purely to visual aids and support materials, another on body language, etc.

How do I use one?

Susan Dugdale, on her blog Write-Out-Loud, advises that for maximum effect, rubrics shouldn’t be kept a secret. Rather, they should be openly discussed between speakers and judges before the presentations.

Since rubrics contain the criteria upon which presenters will be evaluated, knowing beforehand what they contain may motivate presenters to improve their preparation and presentation.

So, the best approach is to design the rubric to score what you want to measure, then set aside time to publish and discuss the criteria with presenters ahead of presentation day.

When presentation time arrives, use the rubric consistently across all speakers. Make notes along the way on ideas to fine tune your rubric for next time. It can be a good idea to share the feedback with students as soon as possible after their presentation. This lets them incorporate your feedback while their presentation is still fresh in their minds.

If you’re using an electronic system, sharing feedback might be automatic, but if you’re using paper, try to give copies to presenters as soon as possible.

“Rubrics are perfect for assessing the right combination of strengths and weaknesses”

Why that’s cool

That’s what a rubric is and the basics of how to use one . . . but who just wants to know the basics? There’s practically no limit to how rubrics are used.

Rubrics are super handy for judging competitions, determining who advances, and keeping things fair between speakers. They are great for speaking events like Toastmasters or PechaKucha. Rubrics make giving scores and grades in your classes simple and easy. They are perfect for assessing the right combination of strengths and weaknesses when forming debate teams, case teams, or other presentation teams.

A very effective application for rubrics is simply to apply a quantitative value to students across a cohort and over multiple presentations. These values show which students made the most progress, and where they started out relative to the rest of their class. Taken together, these data tell the story of how effective or ineffective the feedback has been. (It’s much easier to capture these analytics if you use an electronic system.)

Where to get one?

Where can you find rubrics to use in your classes? We offer a handy PDF version HERE.

Several are available online, such as the NCA Competent Speaker Speech Evaluation Form or the Outstanding Toastmaster Guidelines.

If you’re looking to use rubrics electronically, GoReact (web-based software for recording video and giving feedback electronically) includes a rubric builder that you can apply to recordings of any presentation.

Want to read more awesome content on teaching communication? Try our article 10 Top-Paying Skills Your Students Need in 2017 and subscribe to our quarterly newsletter Drop the Mic.

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