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Critique, Don’t Criticize

Critique rather than criticize personal speeches or the public speaking of others.

Speaking skills can be improved incrementally one speech at a time. Because gratitude and grace are godly qualities to be developed for speech follow-up, expression of appreciation due to others, and personal evaluation of one’s presentation should be considered. Speakers fall short when they do not complete the follow-up process of public speaking.

Immediately after the speech, the public speaker will be strengthened by personal evaluations and follow-up. In this important step of public speaking, a person should not be totally focused on self. Instead, recognize those who worked diligently to make the event happen and acknowledge those who invested time in attendance. Public praise encourages others and strengthens the connections with the speaker. Gratitude may also be expressed later in writing.

Self-examination should also follow the speech. Constructive critique – not destructive criticism – is helpful. The speaker should honestly reflect back on what was said and how it was said. Then energy can be focused on improving weaknesses and continuing strengths in the future.

Criticism and critique are two different words with different attitudes. A dictionary defines criticism as “an act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything (usually involves finding fault).” [1]  Critique is defined as “a serious examination and judgment of something (constructive criticism is always appreciated).”[2] A criticism is typically emotional while a critique is intellectual. A criticism is usually vague and general while a critique is concrete and specific. A criticism is a harsh observation or negative comment; a critique is a thorough review or fair analysis. A criticism finds faults, condemns, and judges; a critique sees possibilities, clarifies, and questions. While a criticism states what is lacking, a critique identifies what is working. Criticizing one’s own speaking or the public speaking of others is not productive. However, critiquing speeches can be very productive.

An important part of personal growth and development is self-evaluation. It is helpful for a speaker to evaluate herself after each speech to learn from the experience. Identifying strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis promotes excellence in speaking. A speaker should also have general goals for sharpening speaking skills.

After each presentation, a speaker should ask herself if she was satisfied with her speech, what went well, and what needs more work. Was she confident as she spoke or, if not, what caused nervousness? The following questions may provide more in-depth self-evaluation:

  1. Did you accomplish the purpose of the speech?
  2. Did you adapt to the setting of the speech?
  3. Did you connect with the audience and receive positive feedback?
  4. Did you witness response to the speech?
  5. Did you experience any specific problems?

In addition, it may be helpful to examine each stage of the speech process. The questions below may promote more personal insights. Take time to suggest strategies for areas needing improvement.

Preparation

  1. Adequate time in prayer and preparation?
  2. Accurate analysis of audience and occasion?
  3. Clear outline and balanced points?
  4. Thorough development of content and supportive material?
  5. Adequate preparation of presentation materials (handouts, slides, etc.)?
  6. Effective speaking notes?

Delivery

  1. Confidence in speaking?
  2. Capture attention with introductory comments?
  3. Maintain connection with the audience?
  4. Appropriate appearance in wardrobe, makeup, and hair?
  5. Adhere to time allotted and pace all parts of the speech?
  6. Notice mistakes or stumbles?
  7. Appropriate use of words and language?
  8. Natural gestures and body language?
  9. Consistent eye contact and facial expression?
  10. Clear speech and comfortable rate?
  11. Appropriate volume and projection?
  12. Audience connection and response?
  13. Manage challenging situations?
  14. New techniques or material for next presentation?

If available, an audio or video recording offers objective feedback. Though sound and image are perceived differently, recordings can offer objective feedback to the speaker. Do you have any tips for self-evaluation?

 

            [1] “Criticism,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Criticism (cited 22 March 2013)  American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

            [2] “Critique,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Critique (cited 22 March 2013) American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).


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