Rubric Tips for Public Speaking

Teaching communication skills can be tricky, and evaluating competency in soft skills like public speaking is so inherently subjective, especially across multiple speakers. One way educators, competition judges, and evaluators tackle this is by using a rubric.

A rubric keeps your evaluation on target with criteria that is standardized, which helps maintain consistent feedback and scoring for all speakers. This keeps things fair for speakers while allowing evaluators the flexibility of employing their judgment and expertise.

What’s a rubric anyway?

Rubrics (“scorecards” for non-academics) are forms spelling out the criteria on which a speaker’s performance will be assessed.

It’s common to include categories and rating scales. For instance, one category might be Clarity of Message, which is then rated on a scale of 1–5. The next category could relate purely to visual aids and support materials, another after that on body language, etc.

How do I use one?

Write-Out-Loud blogger, Susan Dugdale, says for maximum effect, rubrics shouldn’t be kept a secret. They should be discussed openly between speakers and judges before the presentations.

Since rubrics contain the criteria upon which speakers will be assessed, knowing beforehand what’s in them can motivate presenters to improve.

So, the best approach is to build the rubric to score what you want to measure with enough time to publish and review the criteria with presenters ahead of presentation day.

When it’s time to actually do presentations, use the rubric consistently across all speakers. Make notes about how you want 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, so they can incorporate your feedback while the presentation is still fresh in their minds.

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

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.

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

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 analytics tell the story of how effective the feedback is. (It’s much easier to capture these data if you use an electronic system.)

Where to get one?

Where can you find rubrics to use in your classes?

My company, GoReact offers a handy PDF version HERE.

Several more 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.

Chad Jardine is the Head of Marketing for edtech startup GoReact and teaches courses in marketing and finance at @uvu and @uutah respectively.

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