If you're like most professionals, you recognize the impact strong speaking skills have on your organization, your causes and your own career---and you're looking for ways to improve.
There's one tactic above all others that can help you do that. But if you're like most people you're not going to like it.
Here it is: Get out a video camera, put it on a tripod or stack of books and deliver your entire presentation front to end. Then play it back, watching and taking notes on the whole ugly thing.
I know, I know. This seems like a painful step for which you don't have time or energy. But it's critical and here's why:
So much of what you need to correct will be so immediately obvious to you (just as it is immediately obvious to your audience) that you can vastly improve merely by recording, watching, reviewing and trying again.
Of course, self-critiques are not a substitute for professional speaker coaching. But they can go a long way toward helping you pick up on poor content, a lack of energy, nervous gestures and vocal tics.
I know there are plenty of excuses for NOT doing this so let's address a few right here.
"I don't have a video camera." These days EVERYONE has access to a video camera. If you don't have a camera devoted to video, use your iPad, your laptop or your phone.
"I'm better when I wing it." Trust me, you're not. When you avoid scrutinizing your performance, YOU might be blissfully unaware of your flaws, but your audience is not.
"Practice only makes me nervous." This is legitimate and true of most speakers. In fact, the first performance after you critique the video may be worse than the first, as you struggle to make changes. But you will quickly improve. And after a few cycles of taping and reviewing, you'll almost be able to see your mistakes before you make them and avoid them outright.
"There isn't time." Consider how much time you typically devote to collecting info, chasing down every last detail and refining your slides or other visuals. Without question, some of those minutes or hours would be better spent on video rehearsal. (Often, the first on-camera take reveals that much of your content ought not to be re-worked, but rather slashed!) Regardless, don't squander the significant time and money you've already invested by skipping this important step that can make all of those efforts worthwhile.
Instead, do yourself, your organization and your audience a favor: Get out that camera, find a place to prop it and hit record. Those first few takes may make you cringe. But before long you---and your audience---will like what you see.
Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.