How to use a public speaking rubric

To be really useful a public speaking rubric needs open and thorough discussion BEFORE it is used. The criteria and rating scale will mean very little to speakers with out it.

feedback form public speaking rubric

To give you an idea of how I implemented the 5 point scale you'll find in my general purpose public speaking rubric, (Click the link to download or view in a new window), I've included a graded descriptor for every criteria.

Do put aside at least one lesson early in the sessions leading up to the speech presentations to go through the rubric with your class/group as many of your students will be keen to use what they learn as part of their preparation.

Inevitably there will be questions because public speaking belongs in that gloriously untidy domain; the creative arts. While there are agreed upon guidelines for what is good or excellent, there are no absolute hard and fast rules. 1 + 1 will not always make 2 and that can be tough for students or novice speakers to grasp.

Click to download a blank 5 point scale:

Public Speaking Rubric

If you're new to grading speeches ...
Gather confidence through sitting in with a more experienced person.
Grade speeches alongside them and then compare and discuss results.
You'll find the top and bottom of the scale easier to mark because they're obvious.
It's the middle section that demands more concentrated focus!

About this public speaking rubric

The first part focuses on the content of the speech; how it was prepared, structured and adapted to suit the audience.

The second section looks at delivery; how the speech was spoken or performed.

(Click on a link to jump directly to a section.)

The speech content segment has 4 sub-sections:

  1. introduction
  2. body
  3. conclusion and
  4. language.

The delivery segment has 11 sub-sections:

  1. organisation
  2. beginning
  3. eye contact
  4. body language
  5. speaking rate
  6. volume
  7. fluency
  8. vocal variety
  9. enthusiasm
  10. visual aids and
  11. finish.

The 5 point rating scale used is:

  1. E -excellent
  2. G-good
  3. A -average
  4. F -fair
  5. P -poor

To adapt my public speaking rubric for your own use add or delete sections as required.

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Speech Introduction

Attention & interest:
E - a creative, compelling and highly relevant opening that immediately aroused audience interest. It could be a rhetorical question, a quote, a quip, the use of a prop of some sort, an image ...
G - a relevant opening that arouses audience interest.
A - a predictable opening that engages some interest.
F - attempts an opening but it is not sufficiently integrated into the speech or attuned to the audience to arouse anything other than polite interest.
P - no attempt to create interest.

Introduced topic clearly:
E - topic and the angle taken is introduced in an interesting and succinct manner - the scope of the speech is clear
G - topic is introduced and a stance or angle is indicated rather than clearly specificed
A - topic is adequately introduced but little attempt is made to be creative or interesting
F - topic is vaguely introduced. No real attempt to define it or the parameters of the speech.
P - topic is not introduced.

Related topic to audience:
E - relevance to audience established immediately through excellent examples and language use
G - relevance to audience attempted through examples and language use but lacks the aptness and sophistication to be wholly successful
A - relevance to audience attempted but examples and/or language choice are boringly predictable
F - relevance to audience attempted but examples and /or language choice is confusing
P- no attempt made to relate it to the audience

E - establishes authority/right to speak on topic unequivocally
G - states interest/enthusiasm for topic but does not clearly give credentials
A - predictable statement around interest/credentials
F - vague, unspecified remarks
P - not attempt to establish authority

Previewed body of speech:
E - succinct, logical, entertaining overview of the speech to come, creating interest and eager anticipation
G - outlines points to come logically and clearly but minus the creativity worthy of an E
A - outlines points adequately
F - outline is vague but attempted
P - preview is forgotten about

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Body of Speech

Main points clear:
E - main points were interesting, surprising ... and apt for topic and audience
G - main points were apt for topic and audience
A - main points were predictable - not fully related back to audience
F - main points were confused - ill-chosen
P - insufficient main points - only one or two

Main points supported:
E - main points successfully supported through a wide variety of credible methods/sources: anecdote, expert witness testimony, facts and figures, props, diagrams ...
G - main points adequately supported through one or two credible methods/sources
A - main points supported through reliance on one principal credible source
F - attempt to support main points but sources largely inadequate
P - no real attempt to support main points

Main points logically presented:
E - main points presented logically, sequentially yet creatively in order of importance fitting the purpose of speech
G - main points presented logically
A - main points presented slightly out of kilter but with enough coherence for the audience to follow
F - main points muddled - no real logic or pattern discernible in presentation
P - main points ill chosen to begin with - no logic found

Transitions clear & effective:
E - transitions varied, (call-backs, summaries, questions), always interesting, audience centered and effective
G - transitions clear, effective but without the polish of an E
A - transitions present and predictable
F - transitions attempted but unclear or confused
P - no transitions detected - information presented in unrelated slabs

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Transition to end signalled:
E - transition signposted in interesting, creative and engaging manner
G - transition signposted effectively
A - transition present and predictable
F - transition attempted but unclear
P - transition forgotten

Summary of principal points:
E - summary concise, interesting, compelling and related to audience
G - summary concise, interesting
A - summary adequate but without flair
F - summary hurried and incomplete
P - summary neglected

Effective close/call to action:
E - closed speech with an audience clincher - a bang - an arresting call to action
G - closed speech with a good call to action
A - closed speech with an unremarkable call to action or statement
F - closed speech ineffectively but attempted none-the-less
P - simply stopped speaking - ran out of time

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Language Use

Language appropriate for topic & audience:
E - utterly appropriate for topic and audience - easily understood, excellent grammar and prounciation, any jargon explained, flexible vocabulary
G - appropriate for topic and audience - not quite the same level of sophistication found in E
A - adequate but lacking the sparkle of G and E
F - attempted but unsustained - fell into use of stock phrases, simplistic construction
P - limited appreciation and understanding of adaptions required

Language varied:
E - excellent/delightful use of language - imagery, metaphor, similie, allusion, hyperbole, alliteration, repitition, triple constructions...
G - good use of language (as above but less polished)
A - adequate use of language - some of features present in G or E but less of them and less successfully used
F - attempted but unsustained use of varied language. Boring.
P - limited understanding - repitition through lack of resources

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Speech Delivery

Organised notes, visual aids ... before start:
E - thoroughly organised and every facet of the presentation rehearsed
G - organised with very minor modifications needed
A - mostly organised - some adaptions needed
F - attempted to organise but fell short through lack of rehearsal
P - muddled - no real effort made to coordinate notes, visual aids ...

Poised beginning:
E - unflustered, strong, confident, controlled, effective
G - calm, effective
A - contained but strain showing
F - attempted but took a minute or so to get into speech
P - flustered. Fluffed through lack of rehearsal

Good use of eye contact:
E - included the entire audience, confident and appropriate
G - included most of the audience most of the time
A - included some of the audience some of the time
F - infrequent and only to selected few
P - spent speech talking to lectern, ceiling, walls and floor

Body language (posture & gesture) controlled & effective:
E - variety of gestures, fluid, organic rising out of speech and totally appropriate
G - some conscious use of gesture in appropriate places but lapsed into default position (see A below)
A - maintained steady single speaking position - little variation but adequate
F - found it difficult to sustain good speaking position - lapsed into head down, hand twiddling ...
P - made no attempt to deliver speech effectively

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Speaking rate – flexible & effective:
E - varied rate to suit speech - excellent understanding of when to slow, when to go faster, when to pause
G - some variation of rate appropriate to speech
A - little variation of rate however understandable
F - lost audience through either too fast or too slow but managed to pull back in some parts
P - ineffective fixed rate delivery

Speaking volume:
E - volume controlled, appropriate and flexible - easily moved up or down according to speech and audience need
G - volume sustained and appropriate. Audience did not need to strain to hear.
A - volume adequate - although perhaps varied through nerves still OK for the audience
F - volume variable and at times either too loud or too soft. Both difficult for the audience
P - no recognition of the audience's need to hear

Fluency - absence of fillers – ums, ahs:
E - total absence of fillers - fluent at all times
G - fluent but some hesitation picked up and one or two instances of fillers
A - some fillers but recovered from them and moved on
F - fillers present but persevered with speech
P - fillers painfully present to point of preventing understanding of speech

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Used vocal variety – changes in pitch & tone:
E - uses voice like an instrument effortlessly to change pitch and tone appropriately
G - shows understanding of vocal variety but it is not fully integrated into performance - good but not excellent
A - shows some understanding. Can sound false through forcing. Unsustained and falls back into ordinary but adequate mode.
F - little awareness of what makes a good voice to listen to - tries but is inadequate
P - no awareness and no discernible attempt to gain any

Enthusiasm for topic:
E - genuinely passionate about topic - shows in every facet of preparation and delivery
G - moderately interested in topic - has extended self to find out more and adapt to audience.
A - interested in topic - has done what is necessary for presentation
F - accepted topic but has not fully embodied it
P - little attempt to investigate topic

Visual aids appropriate & integrated into speech:
E - clear, creative, clever, innovative use of visual aids seamlessly integrated into speech
G - good use of visual aids. Integrated into speech.
A - visual aids made but not so effective - grafted into speech a little clumsily.
F - visual aids but no real attempt to match them with the audience's need or the speech requirement
P - no visual aids

Finished speech with poise:
E - maintained presence through conclusion and while leaving stage
G - sustained ending but let the energy go a little before leaving stage
A - dropped in energy through ending and reverted to self before leaving stage but adequate
F - dropped in energy through ending and shambled off
P - stopped - threw away ending and left speaking area

* Use the comment section at the foot of the public speaking rubric form to add more detail illustrating how and why you marked the speaker as you did. This is what your speakers will learn from most of all!

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