Vocabulary for Evaluating Communication
What is said?
Central message or thesis: the take-away of the presentation. Typically, this should be easy to identify as a listener
Supporting material or evidence: the details used to support the central message. Depending on the course and assignment, that evidence can be examples, statistics, analogies, quotes, etc.
Content: a broader heading to encompass the material that has been chosen as part of the oral communication
Organization: how information is arranged. Sometimes the organization of material is predetermined by the professor or assignment (e.g., presenting a research paper may necessitate organization by the typical elements of such a paper). Organization can also include the finer grained organization within the broader structure. For example, do the statistics presented as evidence for the argument fit together in a logical manner?
Transitions/Logical Connections: the connective tissue of the presentation. Because a speech cannot be re-read like an essay, the transitions from one idea to another should be even more deliberate
Language: the words that are chosen to create the message. Typically, language should be appropriate to the topic and audience and enhance the overall effectiveness of the presentation. It should be free of bias and limited in use of jargon (which should be explained if potentially unfamiliar to the audience)
How is it said?
Delivery: how the message is conveyed. Typically, delivery can encompass both nonverbal and verbal elements. Some common elements are:
- Speaking rate
- Eye contact
- Vocal fillers (e.g., “um,” “like”)
- Use of voice (e.g., inflection, emphasis)
Style: a catchall term for the overall feeling of the delivery. It can include factors such as the tone of voice and level of formality as well as the overall projection of confidence. Generally, good public speaking will sound conversational, not rote memorization and not reading from a manuscript.
What is supporting the message?
Presentational aid: a more encompassing term for PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Prezi, useful when you don't want to specify a technology.
Design: the look and structure of the presentational aid. Often this can be framed in terms of enhancing, not detracting from the oral delivery. You may want to consider factors such as:
- Color use: details should be easy to see and not distracting. If colors are used as a signifier (e.g., as two different lines on a chart), there should be another indicator of the difference, such as a symbol, to account for people with color blindness.
- Visibility of elements: elements should be sized, so they are visible, with appropriate emphasis on key elements
- Emphasis on visual elements: these are a visual medium so emphasis should be on visual elements rather than words
- Limited words: if words are used, they should be in short phrases rather than full sentences. Less is more!
- Appropriateness: are the materials used appropriate for what is being talked about? Memes are fun, but are they relevant to an economic report?
- Logical organization and structure: are the details on the slides arranged in a manner that fits with the presentation but also makes visual sense
Integration: how the presentational aid is used in conjunction with verbal delivery. Presenters should not read from the slides but still should reference them. Presentation aids should never be expected to stand on their own, but they should also be “value added” for the audience.
What about other forms of communication?
Here are some possible evaluation points for different types of communication.
- Discussion: depth and/or breadth of contributions, connections made with other speakers, ability to integrate information from multiple sources
- Discussion leading: facilitation of responses, integration of ideas, depth and/or breadth of questions posed, ability to manage the discussion
- Q&A (either part of a presentation or a separate activity): poise in responding to questions; thoroughness of responses; organization of thoughts
- Debate: persuasive organization, anticipation of counterpoints and preparation to respond, depth and/or breadth of responses to critiques from opposing side, organization of rebuttal remarks
- Group presentation: cohesiveness of presentation, organization of full group as well as individuals' presentations (group members' contributions can be a separate assignment)
- Poster presentation: succinctness of initial overview of project, integration of poster to discussion, ability to field questions with poise
- Podcast: engagement with elements of the medium (e.g., using music as an introduction, weaving together sound clips), production quality and/or consistency