If you want to improve as a speaker, buddy up


My speaker challenge to you this month is to buddy up.

For anyone who wants to improve as a speaker (and that includes me!) it’s critical to get outside feedback on our talks.

If we’re speaking a lot, yes we can get feedback from our audiences – to a degree. But in the same way that lots of writers have beta readers and editors to feed back on their work, waaaay before it goes out as a book, it’s helpful for us as speakers to test our material in advance.

Yes, I work as a speaker coach and provide this outside perspective for my clients – but I’m also constantly seeking out feedback for my own work.

I have multiple people who help me dig into what’s working and what’s not when it comes to my own talks and projects. I’ll share some quick and immediate ways to do this – they are all real examples from last month.

Bonus – it makes the whole process less lonely and more fun!

3 kinds of asks…

1) 5 minute asks:

I keep these as short and fun as humanly possible. I’ll pick an aspect of what I’m working on and text it out to multiple people, to get their response. I give just enough context that it isn’t totally random, but that they can still take it in at a glance.

eg I’m going to be speaking at X conference in September. Can I ask which of these 3 titles you like best and why?

The people I include are all lovely, busy people in my network who enjoy knowing what I’m up to, and kicking ideas back and forth. But there is zero pressure to respond, and they know this. Depending on their schedule they might send me a funny emoji answer, or we might get into a much fuller conversation about the project.

2) Troubleshooting asks:

I had a couple of these in January, in relation to my own talks. One was because I was on such a tight deadline with a new talk that I didn’t physically have the time to step back and reflect on which aspects were working well, and which needed more work.

And the second was because I was struggling with a dilemma about which of two possible directions to pursue.

For both I cut and pasted relevant sections into a google doc, marked it up with my main questions, and sent it to a couple of trusted people for some quick and targeted feedback. (This is a two way process – I troubleshoot their creative projects too!)

3) Super Trooper asks:

This is when I want to test out the whole version of a talk, at a point where I have got it as good as I can by myself. Depending on the length of the talk, I am often asking for up to 60 minutes of someone’s time – to both share the talk and ask for in-depth feedback. I do this with people where I have a built a relationship of ongoing and mutual feedback. And where we have developed a working vocabulary for critiquing. 

This is totally worth investing in as a relationship, but you might want to start small – by sharing super short talks. I lead you through how to do this in Series 2 of Prompts and Pep Talks. If you want to try this for yourself, you can sign up here, and even try this process with a buddy from the start.

By starting with a short talk, and a small time commitment, you can test out of if it’s a good match. You can find someone that you trust and enjoy working with, as you both help each other to improve your work.

As always, if you have any questions about this, I love hearing from you and I’m happy to share more in depth tips. You can e-mail me or find me on Twitter or Instagram.