So you’ve spent one hour preparing for every minute of your speech. You’ve got a unique, unconventional premise. You have data to back up your main points. You use contrasts, comparisons, quotes and analogies. You have an attention getter, a solid discussion section, and a dynamic closing section. Your PowerPoint is elegant, simple, and design-oriented. Now you’re ready to knock your audience out… and it all falls flat. Why? Did you run the speech by a colleague or coach? Or better yet, a group of colleagues?
Educators have long embraced using focus groups to elicit feedback. Why not utilize this powerful tool to improve your speeches? After gathering your group of colleagues, start with these tips:
1) Have a list of questions you’d like to ask the group. Be sure the questions are open-ended and not too specific, as you want to allow the group to talk as freely as possible.
2) Don’t interrupt… try to talk as little as possible. Hand the ball over to the group. Avoid defensiveness about your speech at all costs as it will silence the group.
3) Ask probing questions if you need more clarity; “Can you explain what you mean by that?” or “Can you give an example?” are some good questions to ask.
Finally, be sure that you pick people who can offer constructive feedback, and ask that people start by mentioning what you did well with the speech. Oftentimes, in an attempt to help us make our work better, our colleagues will leave out the moments they liked. By reminding them to mention the good as well as the bad, you can ensure you won’t be too inundated with criticism.