I was given some of the best feedback on my speaking and presentation skills last week during a training program. The feedback giver was able to put into words how the audience perceived me, my ability to react to participant on the fly, and my manner as the expert in the room. I was happy to learn that the things my intentions were coming across! Apparently I am a compassionate and relatable teacher; I probably got that from my Girl Scout days.
If you are like me, you’ve been given good feedback and bad feedback. Some people never want to hurt your feelings and only say “you did great”. Others go into rants because they want you to perform just like them. How can you improve your own feedback giving skills? Here are some ideas:
- Stay objective
- The number one mistake I’ve witnessed in feedback givers is that they are too specific to the situation at hand. They say things like “pause here”, “change this word here”, or “don’t forget to say this on this slide”. These small suggestions are so trivial that they aren’t helpful. Even if I remember those suggestions, it will probably throw off my natural cadence of speaking. Instead, stay objective and suggest “pausing more”, “stay in present tense”, and “go into more detail on this important topic”. These suggestions don’t get caught in the details and allow the individual’s own skills to shine through.
- Feedback is only as good as its usefulness to apply to your next speech. Just like the specific feedback examples above, poignant improvements are only helpful if you are presenting that exact same speech again with the exact same environment. Instead, keep your feedback related to personality (how you smile, how much you ask the audience for questions, how fast you speak) and poise. These tips can help someone become a better and well-rounded speaker no matter who the audience or what the topic.
- No one wants a lecture in how they could do better after a stressful experience speaking in front of a crowd. Toastmasters teaches the sandwich method (one good thing, followed by one improvement, followed by a second good thing) but I think this can be taken a step further. If you are recommending someone speaks louder, give an example when the person did project their voice well during the speech. This constructive criticism all of a sudden seems obtainable because it turns a “start doing this” into a “do this more” which doesn’t sound negative at all!