How to Score as a Public Speaker

by Steve Evans | Blog, The Gym

Speech is Sport.  Here’s How to Keep Score.

Focusing on the audience and what they take away from your speech or presentation is at the heart of the Sport of Speech approach. What do you want the audience to think, feel, remember, repeat or act upon?  When you are finished speaking, did you accomplish your goal? Did you achieve a winning score? It’s important to think about those questions when you are planning what you’re going to say. This will allow you to write and design your speech or presentation with the end result in mind and, in a way, reverse engineer the process.  It also forces you to focus on the audience and the content and not worry about yourself.  This is how you win.

So, what’s my score?

How do you know how well you’ve done when all is said and done.  Do you give the audience a pop quiz after your talk?  Do you dial test your speech like they do with TV show pilots?  Take along an applause meter? Probably not. Unfortunately, when you are giving the budget presentation at your next sales meeting, you won’t have a panel of judges waving scorecards as they do on Dancing with the Stars.  You may just have to judge for yourself based on how the audience reacts in the moment or the look on your boss’s face when you’re finished.  There are more precise ways to judge your performance.  Let’s take a look at a few.

Evaluation Forms

Many speakers conducting workshops, seminars or breakout sessions will use the trusty ol’ evaluation form. What sort of evaluation form should you use? Many times the organization will provide a form they’ve used in the past to gauge performance.  If not, you can develop your own.  When you Google “speaker evaluation examples” several hundred forms will pop up which you can use as your guide. When you develop a form, you can ask about specific information covered or how valuable they found various portions of the presentation. Here is a form I developed for a presentation workshop I conducted for the Chrysalis organization. I developed this with the organizers of the workshop prior to the event so they would know what was being covered and how useful the group found the information. And, wouldn’t you know, in this example, I get a rave review.

Toastmasters Judges Ballot

Every year, Toastmasters conducts the largest speech contest in the world.  In this competition, each contestant is literally graded using the criteria listed on the official judge’s ballot as seen below. I’ve been a judge at many of these contests and while not perfect, I found it’s a pretty comprehensive way to score the content of a speech and how well that content is delivered. Read over the judge’s ballot below and ask yourself, what score would your latest speech or presentation receive?

The Comedy Scorecard

Unlike other speaking situations, when you’re doing stand up comedy, the audience will definitely let you know how you’re doing without an official judge’s ballot.  They laugh or they don’t, right?  Comedy, however, is a lot more scientific than you may think. In her great book, The Comedy Bible, Judy Carter gives us an LPM (Laughs Per Minute) formula that comedians use to score their performance.

Listen to the tape of your set and give yourself points at the end of each joke according to this formula:

Book The Comedy Bible

LOUD laughter and EVERYONE applauds = 5 points

LOUD laughter and a SMATTERING of applause = 4 points

LOUD laughter from EVERYONE and NO applause = 3 points

MEDIUM laughs = 2 points

SMATTERING of laughs = 1 point

Add up your total laughter points. _____

How many minutes were you on stage?  _____

Divide line 1 by line 2 and enter your LPM here _____

12 to 20:  You are rockin’, baby, and if you aren’t making the big bucks yet – you will.

9 to 12:    You’re doing well and are ready to get paid, but think about shortening your set-ups.

6 to 9:      Not bad but not ready for the big time.

Below 6:  Something ain’t working.

I have to admit, when I did my stand-up sets, there was a lot of “smattering” going on.

Patricia Fripp’s Method 

The great speech coach Patricia Fripp has a great way to clarify expectations and get asked back.  Professional speakers have a way of setting expectations, getting audience responses, generating a positive scorecard and getting asked back all at the same time.  Patricia is often called upon to deliver a keynote address or to be a break out speaker at a conference. She always makes it a point to try to get invited back to wherever she is appearing. Here’s how it works:

When she is doing a seminar or breakout session, she’ll ask the audience before the session, if it is against their religion or philosophy to rate the session “excellent”.  Of course, they all laugh.

She then asks for a volunteer to list the expectations the audience has for the session on a flipchart making sure they are what she calls “content, delivery or experiential type” of elements.

Halfway through the session, she’ll stop and go to the flipchart and ask the audience how she’s doing.

She also gives people permission to leave her talk for another breakout session if they don’t find the information valuable.

She finishes her session by going through the list once again making sure she’s done everything she’s promised and gives the group plenty of time to fill out the evaluation.  She then asks the audience to write out specific comments about what they intend to do with the material.  She then takes questions and closes on a high which is her last bit of information. Note: Patricia believes a speech or presentation should be like a Las Vegas nightclub act where the performer opens with their best stuff and ends with their best stuff, thus ending on a high.  She recommends never closing with questions.  The Q&A part of the session should be done before you close on a high.

It’s not a perfect science

As you can see, there is no perfect way to do this.  The important thing is to set a goal, do your best to achieve it and use one of the methods above to get an idea how you’ve done.  In the final analysis, I like Bill Hoogterp’s definition of success from Own the Room. “If they can remember what you’ve said 3 days after you said it, you’ve communicated.  If not, you’ve just presented”.  I attended a seminar featuring Bob Mowad called Increasing Human Effectiveness over 40 years ago. I still remember many of the things he said during those two days.  I guess you could say he communicated.  I guess you could say it was a winning presentation.

Steve Evans, Speech Enthusiast




  1. daisha

    Such great information!! Thank you so much:)

    • Steve Evans

      I hope it helps. All the best!


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