It’s no secret that no one is born with all the qualities and skills of a highly regarded public speaker. The only way to reach that status is by continuously striving to be a better version of yourself on stage. One way to do that is to take a moment to reflect on your performance after every presentation. We’ve listed a few tips for conducting such an evaluation.
Conduct a personal assessment
Alessandra Cimatti of SlideCoaching.com advises to begin your self-evaluation after each performance with these questions:
Was I able to convey my message clearly?
Could the audience follow my flow?
Did my rehearsal leave me confident and ready to present?
Was I able to finish my presentation within the allotted time? Did I encounter any other time constraints during the presentation?
How well did my slides work? Was I embarrassed by errors in the text or graphics?
Were the important elements of the slides easy for the audience to see and understand? Were there any other technical troubles with the slides (animation wouldn’t play, etc.)?
How was the question and answer period? Did I have trouble answering any of the questions?
Were there any technical issues before and during the presentation? How could these be prevented in the future?
Watch the recording of your presentation
In an era where many events are video-documented, you may be able to obtain a recording of your presentation. It might be available from the event organizers, or perhaps one of the attendees recorded the talk – and may even have uploaded it to an online video site such as YouTube. Of course, in most cases you can record your own presentation, if you wish. (Check with the host or organizer first, if there is any chance of concerns about confidentiality or proprietary information.)
If you do have access to a recording, watch it! Analyze your performance from your audience’s viewpoint. Here are three aspects to consider:
Confidence – How comfortable were you on stage? What did your body language say? Is it evident you had a good connection with your audience?
Clarity – Did you present your information clearly and fluently? Did you adequately emphasize your takeaways? Were there delivery problems, such as stuttering, or excessive use of fillers, clichés or flowery language?
Structure – Did you have and follow an effective outline? Could the audience follow you easily? Did they take away what you intended they should?
Check the organizers’ evaluations
Most organizers ask for feedback after a presentation, using evaluation forms, or – thanks to today’s technology – real-time feedback apps. Ask them if they will share this feedback, and see how the audience rated your message, presentation style, and so on. You might be surprised at the responses – which parts of your presentation resonated the most, made them laugh, or inspired them to action. You might also be taken aback at what they reacted to badly – how a mannerism distracted them from your message, etc.
Ask the organizers for their own feedback
The organizers will almost surely have something to say about your presentation, too. In addition to discussing your delivery, you might also tackle the following:
Audience background – Did you do adequate homework into the audience’s interests, demographics, and professional background?
Event expectations – Were you properly aligned with the organizers’ objectives for the event? Did you effectively play the role they expected?
Venue – Were you adequately informed about the venue, the stage setup, and the technology tools available for your presentation? How proactive were the organizers in preventing technical issues?
What are your successful actions for improving your presentation skills and effectiveness? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
When you feel anxious before your speech, there’s a simple trick that can bring some welcome relief: constructive self-talk. Instead of fretting over worst-case fears, or just trying to “gut it out” and ignore the horrible anxious nerves, try talking yourself down with the phrases below. They’ve been proven to help restore focus, mend confidence and build positive energy.
“This anxiety feels terrible, but I can manage it.”
The first step to managing anxiety is to acknowledge and accept it. Just like any other problem in life, there’s a solution to your anxiety. Start by asking yourself what might cause the apprehensions, and work your way out from there. Are you afraid your audience won’t understand your presentation? Then prepare an easy-to-follow outline. Do you feel your voice or manner will bore your listeners? Then review your talk, work out where you should vary your volume, pitch, or speed to add emphasis, and practice until you’re comfortable, and confident of how you sound. We humans have conquered much of the natural world. You can conquer your anxiety!
“Breathe and stay calm.”
When anxiety starts creeping in, your body tenses up and you tend to take quick, shallow breaths. That makes the heart beat faster, and contributes to physical feelings of anxiety, and more negative thoughts. Break the pattern: Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, then and exhale through your mouth. Counting your breaths out loud may help you focus on this relaxing process and divert your attention from discouraging mental scenarios.
“I am more confident than I think I am.”
Yes, you are! In a public speaking study, participants who were asked to give an extemporaneous speech, and then to rate their own degree of nervousness. The researchers compared the results with the audience’s ratings of the same talks. Results showed that the speakers over-estimated how nervous they appeared to their audiences. And this wasn’t just a one-time finding. This illusion of self-transparency – the assumption that others can “read” you – has been validated in other studies, too. So don’t be so concerned with how you must look to your audience. In their eyes, you look more composed than you may be feeling!
“Public speaking is not dangerous; I will be OK.”
Public speaking may make you sweat and fidget, but it will never cause your death. Those jitters are just temporary, and will only last for the duration of your speech (if they don’t just disappear once you get rolling). What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps somebody will tweet about your talk. Perhaps someone will tell you straight out that you were a mess. But hey, if it’s any consolation, even top celebrities have been labeled as terrible Oscar hosts and received their own share of criticism. If you accidentally do something embarrassing, handle it as gracefully as you can – and then do what your listeners will do: forgive yourself and remember, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
“My last speech didn’t go well, but I’ve learned from it.”
You’ve probably heard phrases like “It’s lovelier the second time around” or “Third time’s a charm.” They’re good reminders that you’ll have a “next time” to showcase your constantly improving communication skills. Remember that no one is born a public speaker. Even the most respected speakers – people like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates – were once in your shoes. Just keep going at it until it becomes easy and natural.
“I will not let stage fright stop me from delivering a great speech.”
Public speaking is an opportunity to exercise your communication skills; but delivering a speech, presentation or product demo also showcases your analytic skill, stress management ability, passion, and a lot more. So go out there and give it your best shot. Who knows? Maybe one of your listeners will invite you to another speaking engagement, hire you as a consultant, or connect with you for other career opportunities.
“If I forget what to say, I’m sure I’ll be able to wing it.”
Even the best speakers occasionally lose their train of thought during a speech or presentation. Such brief memory gaps frequently happen because the speaker is attending to so many different things during a performance: their message, the audience’s reaction, their visuals, the venue, and a whole basket of distractions. In this blog post, we’ve covered how to handle all this with composure.
“I believe in my abilities, not anxieties.”
Fear-based thoughts trick you into believing your anxiety is justified. In reality, they are just thoughts. They are not realities. They are not happening. They simply exist in a corner of your mind. But your abilities – they’ve been with you for years. They’ve helped you cope with previous challenges and accomplish milestones. It’s your strengths and abilities that have shaped you into the person you are now. Why let destructive thoughts – mere mental shadows – outweigh your true capabilities?
Do you have a stress-relieving mantra you use before speaking in public? Share it with us in the comments!
The Gantt chart has become a standard tool for organizers and managers across the world. With good reason: it’s a highly effective way to visualize, plan, coordinate and manage multi-faceted projects and processes. It brings together a project’s tasks, who’s responsible for each, when each should start and when it should finish in order for the whole project to run smoothly to a successful conclusion. Of course, projects rarely go exactly according to plan, but even when things go off the rails, the Gantt chart makes it far easier to set things right again, and still pull off a happy conclusion. Read more
Apart from presentation props, what should you bring to a presentation engagement? Here’s a list of items to include in your presenter’s kit. Bring them along and you’ll be prepared to recover from unexpected issues that can crop up on presentation day.
Laptop and vital accessories
Even if you’re invited to use a computer at the presentation venue, bring along your own laptop. Ideally you’re familiar with it, comfortable with it, and know how to de-bug it if it misbehaves. At the least you’ll be more comfortable with it than a strange new computer! Don’t forget to bring your charger, too. You know how batteries have a nasty way of running down, right in the middle of something important…. Read more
Have you ever bought a tool after a sales person showed how many ways it could be used? Have you ever ordered a kitchen utensil after seeing a chef use it in an infomercial? Have you ever signed up for a free app trial after a representative explained how it worked and what it could do for you?
A product demo is a powerful way to convince potential customers to buy your product. Explaining a product’s attributes and benefits isn’t always a walk in the park, though. It requires thorough product knowledge, strong persuasive skills, and an effective presentation.
Here are five tips for product demos that sell – whether one-on-one or to a crowd. Read more
It’s rarely a good idea to read speeches. Reading a speech glues your eyes to your notes, making it difficult to make eye contact and establish a connection and rapport with your audience – or to gauge your listeners’ reactions. Reading keeps you anchored to the lectern, unable to explore the stage or move freely.
Further, when reading from a script, your delivery is almost always affected – not wholly natural, and lacking your usual presence. Since you’re focused on reading the words correctly, there’s a tendency to lose the meaning behind them. Your normal (genuine and convincing) tone, emphasis, rhythm and inflections are lost. You risk sounding monotonous, insincere, even unprepared. Read more
Metaphors are microphones – they amplify your message.
Presenters often employ metaphors, both in their slides and in their speeches. By likening a new thing or concept to something familiar, they facilitate comprehension and heighten impact. This mechanism is especially handy for introducing a theory, a concept, or other intangible. Read more
Remember that stage as you were growing up, when “why?” was what you asked the most? Everything around you was fascinating, from the commonest of objects and people’s behaviors, to the color of the sky and animals’ sounds. But as the years go on, that wondering inquisitiveness fades, for most of us. To reawaken your natural curiosity, we’ve gathered five speeches meant to inspire that lively curiosity and urge to explore.
If there’s one thing Twitter has taught us, it’s how powerful conciseness and clarity can be. A 140-character tweet cuts out the unnecessary, redundant, and flowery words, encouraging tweeters to send straight, strong messages to their networks.
When writing a speech, remember Twitter’s implied advice to all its users: be clear and concise. There’s some truth to the idea that a lengthy speech is an indicator of your expertise and experience. After all, the more proficient you are in your field, the more ideas and stories you have to share with your audience. However, length does not necessarily equate with quality. If you over-write, hoping to impress your audience or to make yourself feel good, you’re going to end up with a lot of extra talk that adds nothing but vagueness. Read more
Though it’s true that a picture can be worth a thousand words, we still rely upon words to carry the complete message and the full story. They capture the narrative, clarify the abstract, conceptualize the unseen. When Chris Burkard gave a TED talk in 2015, he showed the audience jaw-dropping photos and videos of what he does as a surf photographer. But it was only through his words that the audience could fully appreciate his challenging quest for the perfect waves, in the most remote beaches of the world. His visuals impressed; his words inspired. His photos portrayed the outcome; his words described the process.
Because words produce a different kind of impact, effective presenters are careful to invest ample time in brainstorming key messages, finalizing speech outlines and framing relevant stories. Yet on some days, you’re at a loss for words. You can scarcely find any workable words at all, or your word choices just won’t adequately convey your thoughts. Read more