Public speaking: How to review your own speech

 
Peter Botting
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It's ok to use your hands to make a point - but don't flap them about (Source: Getty)
You will probably always be your harshest critic. I know I am. I will occasionally call my speech or performance "OK" or mutter that "at least I didn't screw up!". But that doesn't help me.
A TedMed client recently emailed me to say they had only just gathered up the courage to watch their speech given over five months ago, despite it being widely praised and even shown on Ted.com.
It is important when you review your own speech that you turn your negative reactions to yourself into constructive criticism - lessons you can translate into improvements.
Reviewing your own speech should be a helpful action-point exercise which allows you to improve yourself, not an exercise in self-loathing.
Here are some ideas on how to review your own speech:

Get a video

Hopefully you will be lucky enough, or prepared enough, to be able to get a recording of yourself performing a speech. If not - film yourself at home practicing. With smart phones you have no excuse now.

Your voice

Most people I coach dislike how they sound when recorded - so do I. This is normal, but you need to get over it. You must go beyond this to usefully critique your performance. Does your voice carry authority and confidence? Do you sound overly nervous or squeaky? Too fast or too slow? What do you need to fix to make your voice do its job of conveying your message well?

Your body language

Using video is your opportunity to watch how your body speaks and whether it supports, interrupts or argues with what your mouth is saying. Body language is not just eye contact, but also the subtle hints and movements which make up an overall image of yourself. Does your face remain expressionless and blank or is there clear emotion and energy in it? Do your eyes smile or scorn? Do you move around the stage too much to the point of distraction, or do you stay painfully still like a wooden toy soldier? Take note of what you do with your hands – punctuating your points with hand gestures is good, flapping them about is not.

Your audience

If you have footage of yourself speaking in front of an audience, look at how the audience reacts. Does your audience seem engaged or just bored (eyes closed is a clue!)? Do you allow them enough time to respond or digest what has just been said? When you are up on that stage with the lights in your face you can often feel disconnected from your audience. Reviewing the footage afterwards can allow you to find out what they really thought.

One step at a time

Remember to not be overly critical when reviewing your own speech, though this is probably difficult to do. Bear in mind that improving your public speaking performance is a learning curve and the greatest way to improve is to practice, review and try it again.

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