The Problem with Getting Feedback on Your Presentation

If you knew you needed to improve your public speaking, how would you start?

Lots of people answer: “I would go and get feedback from people who have seen me present.”

Okay, great. But what kind of feedback are you going to ask for? Before you answer, let me beg you, don’t say this:
 “The next time I present, will you give me some feedback on my body language and delivery?” 

Why is this such a bad way to get insight into your presentation style? Because it focuses on your behaviors rather than how effective you are. In an ideal world, you are one with your material. The audience isn’t thinking about your body language and delivery—they’re simply taking in the whole of what you’re offering.

When we ask well-meaning colleagues or friends to help us out with their feedback, we frequently end up putting much too much emphasis on the external elements of our presentation, rather than focusing on our overall impact.

Getting feedback from others can definitely be instructive. To further your growth, ask specific questions about their experience listening to you: what do they remember? What action will they take as a result of what you said? Do they understand something differently or more fully than before? How did your presentation resonate with them?

Ultimately, the only thing that matters about your presentation is its impact on the listener. When you get helpful feedback about that impact, you can look at how your specific behavior–body language, word choice, etc–increases or decreases the audience’s response and understanding. Start with the impact you want to have, and work backwards.

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