How to Improve your Talk in 10 MinutesSarah Denholm
Want immediate, clear feedback on ways to improve your talk in 10 minutes? I have a suggestion for you. My only proviso is, don’t do this if you’re an anxious speaker or highly self-conscious or you may end up feeling worse and it will potentially set you back.
- Get your phone or camcorder ready to go
- Set yourself up in the space with your notes, or slides if you’re using them
- Start filming, and deliver your talk for a few minutes: say up to five as a general rule
Five minutes is a good length of time to settle into your content and get a flow happening. And you need to make it as real as possible: for example, look at different places in the room, as if you were making eye contact with different audience members.
Then play it back
If you’re like me, you’re going to be critical about certain aspects of your appearance…or you might dislike the sound of your voice. Ideally we try to ignore or minimise those thoughts, as we usually can’t do much about them. Some things are tweak-able, but many, we just have to suck up: for me, it would be great to walk around with my own flatteringly soft light-source on certain days, but sadly it’s not going to happen!
So we need to move on, and look at the things which really matter to our audience:
- Do we start by stating clearly why the audience should listen to us? The benefits for them?
- Are our points clear, both well thought out and delivered with emphasis?
- Do we add distracting and annoying filler words such as um, ah, you know?
- Do we fidget, sway or have any other annoying mannerism?
If you’ve not videotaped yourself before, or haven’t revisited the idea for a while because you’re comfortable with your speaking persona and style, I challenge you to give it a go. After all, if you’re not willing to put the time in to give yourself this feedback – even if you find it boring to do, difficult or confronting – then is it possible that you’re not showing a lot of respect for your audience’s time?
Just a thought.
Be your own guinea-pig instead
We can get complacent; or miss really obvious things that annoy our audiences. We might be certain that our message is clear and succinctly put…and yet when we listen and watch, we see that in fact it’s buried.
Another tip for you
Watch with the volume down, and observe your body language. And then go again: turn away and just listen to your voice. To the variety you use – or don’t use. To your tone, and pace, and pitch. All the really important things that make such a difference to audience engagement.
I regularly watch back my videos – both from live room presentations, and nowadays the ones I put on my social media platforms, and webinars. I scrutinise them using all sorts of different criteria. Sometimes yes, I put it off when I know I won’t be detached enough. It’s always a good idea to wait until I know I’m in a resilient, open mood to process my own feedback. But we don’t want to use this an excuse! Using video is such a useful feedback tool, and if you want to improve your talk in 10 minutes, I highly recommend it.
And if you’re interested in other ways to practise your talk, I have an article about the amount of rehearsal I’d suggest here.
Best wishes with your presentations!