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Dave Hill – Speaker, Trainer, Author, and Speech Coach

At a recent public speaking club event I delivered 10 minutes of a one hour keynote speech on “Energizing Workplaces”, and my focus for this part of the speech was “Getting Meetings That Are Productive, Stimulating and Fun”.

The reason I delivered this section of my speech was to get feedback from seasoned speakers on its effectiveness. I told them that I was delivering my customized speech to an executive networking group, and wanted my peers to give me feedback with that in mind. I wanted to know if my stories were relevant to the points I was making, if my transitions smooth, what parts of the speech should be removed, whether my humor was on target or not, whether the material provided value to the audience, if my stories too long, if my movement purposeful and smooth, etc.

The feedback I got was excellent- my stories were working, and my humor was good. The improvement opportunities included tightening up my physical movement and taking more time to identify the specific value the concepts in my speech would provide to people at the executive level.

To maximize the amount of feedback I got from my peers, I planned ahead of time. I printed out a copy of my template evaluation form to solicit feedback from everyone. Someone was lined up to formally evaluate my content and delivery during the club meeting, and they also conducted a “round robin” session, which was basically an open discussion forum designed to get verbal feedback from as many people as possible.

The reason for having a written feedback form is to have some documentation to review afterwards, but it also provides a vehicle for people in the audience to provide feedback, who may not be comfortable talking to a group of people, or who may not be comfortable verbally critiquing.
Note: Not all feedback is necessarily “on target”. Take the time to review the feedback and determine what is actually going to bring your speech to the next level. It can be effective to have a mentor or other experienced person sift through the feedback forms and provide you with the tips that will move you forward.
Also, be careful of feedback overload. When I was preparing for the World Championship of Public Speaking Finals in 2004, I went to over 20 public speaking clubs to get feedback while honing my speech. I got great feedback, but I also got so much that I started to feel overwhelmed and even depressed. In hindsight, I should have gone to fewer events and had a mentor screening the advice.

The power of feedback should never be underestimated. Even seasoned successful comedians such as Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld turn up at smaller comedy clubs to try out new material. Sometimes the audience laugh at things that you never expected, and other times they do not get the humor they thought was obvious.

If I am putting together an important business presentation, I will try and find the time to deliver it to my peers to make sure my tact is correct, and that I will successfully convey my message, and gain consensus. In the past, I have had feedback such as, “Dave you are delivering to upper management. Your presentation goes into too much detail; change it so that it focuses on a broader, high- level perspective”. This is great feedback to receive; crashing and burning at high level meetings can not only be frustrating, it can be career limiting.

What Are Some Things You Should Consider When Getting Feedback On A Speech Or Presentation?
1. Determine where you can get effective feedback (i.e. research and find a public speaking club that is known to have seasoned, exceptional evaluators – Toastmasters would be a cost effective means of finding an effective venue – locate a club in your area at – most clubs have weekly meetings with a total cost of about $40 for 6 months. There are also advanced Toastmasters clubs where you can deliver longer speeches. These can also be a good venue for finding seasoned evaluators. **Do your research, talk to people, and find the venue that is going to maximize value from a feedback perspective.
2. It is important to remember that not all feedback is good. It can be effective for you to get your mastermind group, mentor, or other skilled speaker to evaluate the evaluation forms and determine what advice is correct and appropriate
3. Prepare some template questions and edit them to get feedback on specific aspects of your speech.
4. Your template form questions should be short and to the point.
5. Get organized for your feedback session. Maximize the value by getting written and verbal feedback, and incorporate group discussions if possible. Prepare a feedback form ahead of time. Hone it to your specific speech or presentation needs.
6. When getting verbal feedback from audience members, do not tell them they are wrong. Other people may refrain from providing feedback because they do not wish to appear foolish if you do not agree with them.
7. Take notes to demonstrate that you appreciate the advice and to have clear thoughts to consider afterwards. Get as much detail as possible so you fully comprehend what is being suggested.
8. Ask for honest, brutal feedback. There are always opportunities for improvement.
9. Finally, consider using your feedback form as a marketing tool with a question such as, “Can you think of any group that would benefit from this type of speech? If so, please provide some contact information”.

Some Questions You Might Want To Consider On Your Template Feedback Form:
• Are there any opportunities for improvement in my introduction?
• Is the speech title “catchy” enough? Suggestions?
• Does my speech have a strong enough message? Suggestions?
• What was the most effective part of my speech?
• What was the weakest part of my speech?
• Were the transitions from section to section clear enough?
• Is my ending strong enough?
• Gestures – Natural / Deliberate / Stiff / Excessive?
• Volume / energy level
• Mannerisms / Confidence Level?
• Does Body Language Match the Speech?
• Can you think of any group that would benefit from this type of speech? If so, please provide some contact information.