Why feedback DOES matter in presenting


Would you rather take an introductory 5am fire-eating class than ask for feedback? 

While constructive criticism can be tough to hear, feedback is a vital tool that you can use to boost your performance. 

The F Word

Take Tim for example. Tim went on three first dates with three eligible partners he had met online. He chose romantic locations, dressed well, and treated each potential long-term love interest with kindness and respect. 

But to his great disappointment, not one of them wanted a second date.  

Ever the optimist, Tim arranged a fourth date with a new prospective sweetheart, Lucy. When she too balked at his suggestion that they meet up again, he asked her why.

Lucy paused for a moment, then told Tim that although he was kind and respectful and had clearly made an effort for their date, she just couldn’t get past his terrible breath. 

Clearly this feedback was not something that Tim enjoyed receiving. But, a few trips to the dentist later, he took Margarita out for a first date and now they are both smitten.

While negative feedback can be difficult to hear, it can also be a real lifeline, prompting us to make the changes that allow us to reach our full potential. 

Criticism isn’t a wave of doom blasting your confidence away. It’s a wave washing helpful paper clues furled inside glass bottles onto your life’s beach.

Feedback is particularly useful for public speakers as without it, we can only evaluate our performance from our own limited perspective. There is a saying that sums this situation up perfectly – “it’s hard to see the frame when you are in the picture.”

Not all feedback is created equal

Speakers can draw from three main feedback wells:

1 – Friends and family 

Comments you receive from friends and family while practicing speaking at home are useful but only up to a point. You will feel much more comfortable performing in front of this small home crowd than to a larger audience of strangers. 

Your nearest and dearest may not give you completely honest feedback because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Plus, though they (and you) might know what engages them specifically, you need to learn how to capture a diverse audience built from different intellects, creativities and learning styles.

While your uncle Harold may delight in a dry list of facts, a broader audience will include people who must be lifted high on the wings of a story to retain even one piece of information.

2 – The Audience

An audience is fantastic for on-the-spot feedback in a realistic environment. However, it is challenging to process at first because it comes to you live while you are delivering your presentation.

To gather this feedback, ask yourself the following questions while you are on stage:

Am I connecting with the audience?
Are they looking engaged?
Is the humour working?
Are they watching me or looking at the floor / their phones?
Are they responding to my rhetorical questions?
Do I feel comfortable whilst speaking to them?
Do they look engaged and inspired by my delivery?
Do I need to add more stories to my presentation?

The art is to avoid becoming distracted by that information and to use it to make slight adjustments throughout your presentation.

Once your presentation is over, sit down and ask yourself: 

What worked? 
What didn’t work? 
How can I improve the presentation for next time?

When possible, ask a friend to sit in on your performance and give you feedback on how the presentation was for them. Prep them in advance to observe how the audience responds.

3 – A Professional Speaking Coach 

If you were training to fly a plane, you wouldn’t ask Paula the chef who lives at number 30 how she thinks you’re doing. So why ask her for feedback on your presentation skills when you could ask a professional speaking coach? 

Nothing surpasses feedback from a professional speaking coach. While a friend may be able to spot a few weaknesses in your skillset, only an expert can see at a glance where you excel and where there’s room for improvement. 

A partner might make a few useful suggestions that can help you on your way, but only a skilled and experienced speaking pro can give you proven guidance on how to become a great speaker. 

The quickest and most cost-effective pathway to achieving this goal is to work intensively with a 1:1 coach. 

Surprised to learn that speaking is a team effort? Think about pro athletes, top CEOs and world-renowned vocal stars like Serena Williams or Celine Dion. They work with coaches who can see their blind spots, focus their energy and develop their talents. 

If you want to become skilled at something, the most logical course of action is to train with someone else who already has those skills and to ask them for feedback on how you are developing. 

Be better, faster

If you want the kind of feedback and guidance that is beyond your gran’s grasp, it’s time to contact a professional speaking coach. 

Remember that all that feedback that might seems hard to swallow was described by Ken Blanchard as “the breakfast of champions”.

Let’s #Share #Learn #Grow