Morgan Zeliff, Evaluation of My Speaking in the Community, Fall 2004

I gave a speech to approximately 45 people on November 14, 2004.  It lasted just over 11 minutes and was followed by a short question and answer period.  The speech I gave was an extended version of the policy speech I gave in class that discussed the federal governments failing Salmon Plan along the Snake River.  I choose to give this speech because I felt that it would be extremely beneficial to get some feedback before my in class presentation, because I wanted a realistic practice session and because I wanted to allow an audience to ask me questions (or make arguments against) my argument so that I could practice for the "attack panel." There are two aspects of my speech that I would like to evaluate: first, the aspect of matching the speech to the audience; and second, the aspect of the "Assessment forms" which I had four audience members fill out. 

In the composition entitled "Rhetorical Speaking and Rhetorical Situations" by Brydon and Scott the point was made how important it is to take into account your audience before presenting or even composing any sort of speech.  After giving this speech on Salmon Policy to a group of students at Whitman College, who were gathered for a meeting of their campus group (a group who met and was formed with no relation to anything remotely related to policy or salmon at all), I fully understand their assertion.  While the group that I presented to was polite, cordial and willing to listen to my speech, it was evident that very few of them were impacted by what I said further than perhaps a controversial commercial would impact them.  Within the moment, they thought about the issue, but as soon as I was done, their minds went elsewhere.  While my reasons for presenting the speech to this group were not primarily to convince them of a certain viewpoint or inform them on a topic that necessitated their greater awareness, in the back of my mind I still hoped it would at least stimulate them to want to know more.  I suppose I am being a bit to harsh on myself because there was in fact one of the audience members that wrote me an email a few days later with a link to a different perspective on the issue then I had presented, proving that some further thought had been provoked. 

From this experience I have learned that no matter how passionate I am about a topic, if I want to leave a lasting impact on a greater number of people, I need to present my information and prepare my information so that it addresses that specific groups concerns.  Specifically for this speech I learned that I needed to work on the inherency portion of my speech.  I think that the question and answer period was beneficial in that it gave the audience the chance to present to me (unknowingly) their specific interests on the subject, which I took into account when editing the speech. 

The assessment forms that I gave to four individuals in the group also allowed me to have a better idea of what an audience composed mostly of twenty-somethings may be interested in hearing about Salmon Policy.  I designed the assessment forms strictly for the purpose of obtaining feedback, and hopefully, I thought that by providing set questions, I would be able to get feedback in certain areas where I wanted/needed it most.

The first question was really two: "What was her topic? What was her thesis?"  I asked this to find out whether my topic and thesis were clear.  These were both very straightforward questions and I mostly got very straightforward answers.  I was pleased to find out that the four people were able to understand at least this much of my speech.

The second question was: "Were you convinced by her argument?" Followed up by were there "any really good ones?"  These two questions were a little more broad.  I was hoping to see if the overall argument was sound and then also to see what specific parts really convinced them.  I wanted to know what not to take out of my speech.  Everyone answered this question too and gave me good examples of the specific arguments that they felt were most convincing.  I think it was a worthy question. 

The third question was: "What arguments of hers were not convincing or confusing?"  With this question I was hoping to discover any obvious flaws to my argument.  I got four very different answers.  Two gave me some good, solid answers, one gave me a wishy-washy general answer and one said I had no flaws at all.  I think the two that gave me the good answers were useful.  But the two others reflect more of the listeners capability (or lack of, as the case may be) to really assess this type of argument (which I don't see as any fault of theirs, it's most likely that they just don't have any training in the area of speech or enough knowledge on the subject to know one way or the other).  Even though I received less valuable feedback on this question, I think I would use something like it in the future for the little feedback it did provide me with. 

The final question I asked was: "What counter arguments would you make against her?"  I knew this would be the least productive question just because it forced the listener to come up with their own thoughts, but again, I think the little feedback I did receive validates it's use.  Also, I was able to have some counter arguments presented in the question and answer period. Overall, I think I would definitely use feedback forms in the future with similarly designed questions in order to prepare for any type of persuasive speech.  It always helps to get other perspectives on the topic.