One of the best ways to make progress from one speech to the next is to ask others for feedback. But soliciting feedback can be an awkward conversation, especially when you have to ask colleagues, direct reports, or managers.
Here are some tips for easily asking others to help you.
- Find a trusted friend or colleague. Many of us have people in our lives with whom we talk through challenges or go to for advice. Identify someone whose feedback you’d truly value and who is in a position to actually hear you speak.
- Ask that person in advance. Give someone advance notice before asking them for feedback on a speech. Asking them after you’ve already given the speech can put them on the spot – they might not have been paying enough attention to offer detailed feedback.
- Be specific about the kind of feedback you’d like. Would you like feedback on your messaging or nonverbal communication? Is there a particular filler word (um, ah, so, you know, just) that you’d like them to listen for? The more specific you are in your request, the easier it is to receive feedback. Think of three main issues that are most important to you, such as: filler words, conciseness of content, and speed of delivery.
- Ask for feedback immediately after the event. We get the richest, most unfiltered feedback immediately after an event, when it’s fresh in our minds. If you can, set aside 10 minutes after the event to debrief with that person in a quiet space. If it’s not possible to debrief immediately, then try to do it within the same day.
- Listen to the feedback without judgment and write it down. You’ll be tempted to respond with, “yes, but…” and be defensive when receiving the feedback. Simply listen and learn from someone else’s interpretation of your speech.
- Do your own debrief as well. In addition to learning from someone else, always do your own debrief immediately after a speech, asking yourself three questions: What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently next time?
DOs and DON’Ts when soliciting feedback:
- DO try to get feedback after every single speech. The more you make it a habit, the more progress you will make in your speaking skills.
- DO recognize the value of feedback. You can give the same speech 100 times, but if you never learn what you’re doing wrong, you could be making the same mistakes over and over. It’s also essential to hear how your humor, personality, and message come across to others.
- DO use this as an opportunity to deepen your working relationship with colleagues. Giving and receiving feedback can make both parties feel vulnerable which actually leads to a stronger relationship of trust.
- DON’T ask someone who is also speaking at (or moderating) the event to give you feedback. They could be too distracted thinking about their own remarks to offer substantive feedback. Ask someone without a speaking role.
- DON’T ask too many people for feedback all at once: you might be overwhelmed with too many disparate comments. Ask one or two trusted friends or colleagues.
- DON’T feel like you need to change yourself based on every piece of feedback. Listen to it, absorb it, and then think about what you’d like to change. You can always disagree with the feedback unless you are hearing the same theme from multiple people.