Speech Evaluation and Criticism by Saudat Abdulbaqi
It is essential to evaluate speech presentation in order to:
(a) identify the effects of speech on the audience
(b) explore the critical dimensions of communication
(c) evaluate ethics of communication.
The criticism must be constructive and aimed at helping the speaker to improve. It must be balanced, pointing out what was right about the speech as well as what was not so right.
The focus of speech criticism
- Textbook vocabulary– assesses the mechanical accuracy of a speech based on general communication principle e.g., grammar, arrangement, style of delivery, etc.
- Burkean vocabulary: this was developed by Kennet Burke, a renowned social critic. He sees communication transaction at 3 levels;
(a) grammatical or descriptive level- chart
(b) rhetorical analytical level to creatively analyze strategies- prayer
(c) symbolic or poetic level-to symbolically comment upon the dramas of human communication will pool of symbols – dreaming
- Bitzer’s vocabulary– used to analyze the speech that are presented by a representative or spoke person for a particular group. Bitzer’s approach helps to differentiate between the personality of and individual and the situationally-imposed role he plays.
Careful observation: to decide what to look at and how. This takes into account external factors like, account/ public opinion, reaction on TV, radio ratings, inside observation, your mastery of the speech content due to repeated reading in addition to research carried out on the content.
Additional Focus of speech criticism
- how well does the speech address the subject matter?
- were the main ideas well organized in support of a definite theme?
- how interesting and factual were the supporting themes?
- were the assertions logically supported?
- how was the manner of delivery?
- did the audience understand the message?
- were the objectives of the speaker achieved?
- how was the audience reaction; favourable, unfavourable, indifferent?
- be complete in your review, be specific to particular issues and be positive, start with your positive observations then follow with the negative ones.
Criteria for Measuring Speech Performance
Ethical standard: this is an assessment of the moral values of the speaker. Ethical decisions are guided by values, conscience, sense of right and wrong such as:
(a) is he telling the truth? ‘there is an ethical responsibility to be morally truthful’
(b) are the opinions and facts reasonably presented?
(c) are the feelings and sensibility of the audience being considered?
(d) were there suggestions of name calling or stereotype in the speech?
Logical standard: did the speaker reflect sound reasoning? Was the content clear and easy to understand? Was it well structured? Were the audience able to identify with the presentation?
Artistic or Aesthetic standard: speech, like any work of art, must give some pleasure to the speaker as well as to the listener. This can be realized from good structure, interesting materials, inducement of logical thoughts, suitable language, speaker’s manners, dress, style of walking to the platform, facial expression, sincerity, enthusiasm, etc. Always remember the saying of Patricial Fripp (Year, Page) that: “words represent your intellect, sound, gesture and movement represent your feelings”.
Result standard: a very sound basis for judging speech is to consider its effect. However, a speaker does not need to labour extremely hard to win the audience’s favorable response by distorting truth. Rather effect should be judge according to the nature of the problem. Note that, effect can be affected by mood, background, prior knowledge as well as other factors that cause perception error. In criticizing a speech, be complete, don’t be one-sided, be specific, be objective and be not a fault finder.
How to write criticism
The first step is to read the speech severally while noting areas of possible interest. Note that, this task requires to study the speech critically and bear your view about its strengths and weaknesses and not condemn it. Be sincere in your assessment and avoid the use of foul language in writing your report. Like every other report, reports on speech criticism should be in the following format:
Introduction: you can start with a quotation from the speech, create a question around it, and highlight how you intend to answer the question posed.
Body: take each point of your critical analysis one step after the other, applying your chosen hierarchical approach. You can illustrate with quotations to lend credence to your argument.
Conclusion: summarize by pulling the argument of your paper together by indicating how the sub-points fit together to present a valid and interesting picture of public communication. Draw implications and brief lessons from your analysis.
A Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Dr. Saudat Salah AbdulBaqi is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Ilorin and an Adjunct Lecturer at Kwara State University and Summit University. A Chairperson of NIPR Kwara State Chapter, she attended Bayero University Kano (BUK), University of Lagos and Universiti Utara Malaysia for her qualifications.