Do you want to improve your presentation? Then you need help
from outside your own performance. You cannot see all of the
areas that you can improve while you are presenting. Sure,
you will notice some of the obvious areas for improvement as
soon as they occur. For example, you know immediately when
your slide show doesn't load up and you waste five long
minutes searching your laptop for your presentation. You
also immediately realize when you slide goes up and you
can't read the black text on navy blue background.
You need outside help to point out the less obvious areas of
improvement. Do you pace back and forth? Do you have a
distracting verbal crutch? You are probably so close to the
distraction that you don't notice it.
For example, I was watching a TV show and the officer gave
status on a crime scene similar to this "At this point, the
perpetrator is receiving medical care. At this point, we
know that shots were fired but don't know if Police Officers
were injured. We are counting the number of cartridges in
police officer's possession at this point. At this point,
the crime scene is closed to the public. At this point we
don't have additional information for the media". Being a
Toastmaster, I started counting after the second "At this
point". After four utterances of "At this point", my wife
noticed the verbal crutch and "pointed" it out to me. I
doubt if the officer ever noticed the distracting phrase.
Let's say that you have an inkling that your presentation
can improve. How do you go about making improvements? How do
you get constructive and specific feedback on your
performance? Here are suggestions that work for me and can
work for you.
1. Purchase a portable personal recorder and record every
speech. Every speech. I use a Sony digital recorder to
record every presentation that I give. I listen to the
speeches that have unexpectedly positive moments or where I
suspect something was less than it should have been. Digital
recordings cost nothing to gather so there is no reason to
pass up every opportunity to record your presentations.
2. Ask audience members open questions about your
presentation. Ask specifically about components of your
presentation to elicit valuable feedback. For example "What
did you think of my slides?" and "How did the structure of
my speech land with you?" and "Which portions of the
presentation did you enjoy?"
3. Video tape your presentation and watch the recording. Get
over the fact that it is hard to watch the recording the
first few times. Watch the recording looking for various
aspects of your presentation. Look at your body gestures.
Were your gestures what you wanted to convey? Are they
congruent with your speech? Are you saying "I was so sad"
while you smile? Turn off the volume and look for
distracting, repetitive gestures such as wringing your hands
or wagging your finger at the audience.
4. Work with a presentation coach. Read more
here on how to select, and benefit from working with a
Let's say that you observe a behavior that you consider a
distraction. How do you know if it is a distraction or not?
The only way to get constructive feedback is to ask your
coach. Then allow your coach to make suggestions for
alternate behaviors to replace the distracting behavior.
I cannot comprehensively evaluate my presentations without
feedback. In addition to the many challenges facing
presenters in his or her home language, I occasionally
use South African phrases and grammar in front of my
predominantly American audiences. I need feedback from
American listeners to suggest areas for improvement to my
You also cannot completely evaluate your presentations
either. You need feedback from other perspectives. Start off
by recording the audio of every presentation that you give.
Purchase a digital audio recorder if you don't already have
one. Then record your presentations with a video recorder
when ever you have the opportunity. Also work with a
presentations coach if you get the chance.