Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A speaker wants "More time to reflect on improving the next speech," and how to get it

I asked readers of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook what they'd focus on if they could improve just one thing about their public speaking and presenting. Tiffany Lohwater said she'd focus on "More time for...reflection on how to improve the next one."

To my mind, that reflection time needs to come as soon as possible after your presentation or speech, simply to aid your memory of what happened. But it needn't be a lengthy, laborious process. Instead, try these tactics to squeeze in a worthwhile review of your last speech with an eye to improving the next one:
  • Start a free-association list: Just get down on paper your first impressions in bulleted or list form. What do you recall, positive and negative? What got the biggest laugh or the most applause? What fell flat? Where did you feel awkward? You can divide this later into a positive/negative pair of lists if you prefer--I'd suggest labeling them "I liked...." and "I wish...." to capture potential changes without judgmental. If it's easier and faster for you that day, use your smartphone or even your voicemail to record a list on audio as a reminder to get you started.
  • Gather other data:  If you have access to feedback forms, pull out and add to your list any useful evaluation remarks, positive and negative. Have access to some video or audio? Watch it now, using my list of what to look for when your speech is recorded. Once you're done, add to your list of pros and cons.
  • Pick three: You'll have plenty of things you liked and that you want to improve...so just pick three to focus on for next time. That makes the process manageable, especially if you start your reflection time understanding that your ultimate goal is to find just three things.
  • Keep a running list:  You'll save time next time by keeping a running list of things you've done well and things you want to improve. Pick three, focus on them next time, then use your list from the previous speaking engagement to start your evaluation of the latest one. Then there's no need to rewrite the same items, making the task a bit shorter; you need only add any new observations, and put a check next to items that still made the list this time.  A running list also is a great way to keep tabs on your progress, and can show what you're working on now as well as what you've mastered--a great motivator.
How do you work in time to reflect on what you can improve next time? Share your ideas in the comments.

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