How to Effectively Evaluate Your Talk [Part 3]

Author: Curtis O. Fletcher

Those who have attended the SCORRE™ Conference know that the E in SCORRE™ stands for evaluation. Sadly, too many speakers believe that evaluation is really just a post mortem exercise. In this three part series I’ll teach you how to most effectively evaluate YOUR talk before, during, and after the presentation. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Evaluating a talk after you’ve given it is perhaps the easiest and yet most painful experience in the process of communicating. Here we often second-guess ourselves and frequently get deep in our own heads. The opposite is also true; we often make it out to be much better than it was in real life.

So how do you set up a structure that will allow for an accurate assessment, something incredibly crucial to your success especially if you have the chance to give the same talk more than once? How do you make sure you don’t just trust your post-mortem intuition?

Think of it in terms of three tools that are available to you.

The first tool is:

AUDIO

Whenever you can, record your talk. For less than $100 you can get a really decent lapel microphone from RODE that will plug into your phone. This will allow you to record good quality sound even if you’re speaking in a venue that won’t allow you access to the sound system.

Of course it does you no good to record if you’re not going to listen to it afterward.

WARNING: THIS CAN BE PAINFUL

The first time I listened to a recording of my college radio show I was crushed. Even though I had received good reviews from station folks, fellow jocks, and listeners I thought I sounded HORRIBLE. I first vowed not to go back on the air (foolish), then I vowed to never record a show again (even MORE foolish.)

You’ll get used to the sound of your recorded voice. You’ll eventually see the value in listening over and over to find what changes need to be made.

The second tool can be more or less painful depending on whom you choose:

SOMEONE YOU KNOW

In the earlier stages of my speaking career, after I was married, my wife would stand in the back of the room and give me feedback even before my talk was finished. Truth be told, I had a couple of annoying habits. Sometimes I would rock back and forth continually. Libby would start doing that in the back of the room as a visual cue.

At one point I developed a nervous habit of twisting my ring. That was easy enough to be mimicked from the back of the room as well.

Having someone you know, and trust, in the audience who is prepared to give you feedback after you’ve finished is a great tool for obtaining immediate evaluation of how the talk went. Just let them know ahead of time that you’re going to be asking them for their feedback on things like:

  • Body Movement
  • Eye Contact
  • Voice, Volume, and Pace
  • Gestures

Getting their impression of how the room reacted is a great second opinion to add to your own assessment.

The third tool is perhaps the most comprehensive but is often the most difficult to arrange:

VIDEO

Video is the great combination of sound feedback you get from audio and the dynamics feedback you get from someone you know. The advances in cell phone and tablet technology now make it easier than ever to capture video. Often the biggest struggle is in where to set up the device and who to have turn it on when the time comes. Sometimes we’re lucky enough that the event organizer can help with video but if you’re not that lucky and you want to hit the trifecta of post talk evaluation:

  • Use the RODE mic to capture audio.
  • Bring a friend to the event with a tablet or phone and ask them to record the video. (They’ll have to use their own device since you’ll be using yours)
  • After the event, on the way home, ask their opinion.
  • Dub the audio in the video recording and re-watch over beverages. 

The recording gives you the chance to re-visit the questions you asked in pre-talk evaluation thus closing the loop.

Now that you’re effectively armed to evaluate your talk before, during, and after a presentation what is your next step? Which of the three phases of evaluation do you feel need the most work? With which of the three are you most comfortable? 

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Curtis still struggles listen to his own recorded talks, even after 30 plus years. After more than 20 years of watching student’s recorded talks he finds his aren’t quite so bad after all.

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