What every great public speaker asks their audience — what did you learn from my talk?
As many readers know, I speak at a lot of events every year. They vary from huge halls, like above in Zagreb where I spoke to 800 people, or a group of 300 from a major Bank’s Digital team, or a group of 100 high school students, shown below.
Without seeming arrogant, I’ve been told I am a good public speaker. Repeat bookings and testimonials tell me so, but I am never satisfied.
Recently I have enlisted the help of an “ImpactTologist” — my friend Martin Brooks to see how I can improve my content and delivery every time I speak. He has given me some brilliant advice that I have already put into practice.
Generally when I come off stage and mingle with guests and delegates after my talk, they say to me “That was a great talk.”
Of course I thank them for their kind words, but it was happening all the time, even when I gave what I thought was a pretty average presentation. I actually was starting to feel embarrassed, so I went looking for a way to deflect the compliments.
Now when people compliment me after one of my talks, I ask them to reflect on it and concentrate on the content, not the delivery.
I ask them in return — what are two things that you will take back to your company?
This always makes them think. They generally take a breath, and reflect on what I have said.
Any good speaker should do the same, not just lap up the praise, but see if the content is something they can action straight away.
What I have found using this approach is that I then can more accurately understand what worked well, and what made them think, and apply this in future talks.
As a speaker looking to constantly improve, I don’t want to be told that it was a great speech, I want to see what content really connected with them.
As you go through your own speaking career, start asking your audience what they will take away with them?
I many ways, through this deeper feedback I actually learn much more from my audience than they learn from me.
Top tips to improve your content and delivery style each time
- Film each and every talk and review them afterwards in great detail to learn what worked and what didn’t. Read more about the kit I use to film all my talks in this post
- Ensure your Twitter name and event hashtag are at the bottom of all your slides — then if they want to provide any feedback or tweet one of your slides, your twitter handle is easy to find
- Get to the event as early as you can — attend the dinner the night before if there is one and ask delegates “what are you expecting from my talk tomorrow/this afternoon/this morning”. I remember after attending a drinks reception the night before I was due to speak at a conference and asking these questions I completely rewrote my presentation. As a result it perfectly hit the mark
- Leave enough time for questions at the end of your talk — to see if the presentation made them think
- Always stay after your talk to solicit feedback in the break or at a reception afterwards
Next time you speak, ask for feedback on your content from your audience — you may find you learn something new.