Article Category: Speaker Habits

Speech Preparation #9: Prepare Now for Your Next Speech


Self-CritiqueThe opening article of the Speech Preparation Series outlined a six-step process for speech preparation.

This article focuses on the sixth step: critiquing your speech so you can learn from your strengths and weaknesses. Thus, a self-critique is really the first step in preparation for your next speech.

Speech Preparation Series

Why Critique Your Presentation Skills?

Great speakers realize that presentation skills are not easily mastered in one or two or ten speeches. Speaking skills are improved incrementally one speech at a time.

To realize these incremental improvements, it is essential to periodically review your skills. Some people prefer to do this review once a week or once a month; I recommend that you review your skills after every speech, especially if you are a novice speaker just dipping your toes into the public speaking pool.

Critiquing Your Own Speech

It only takes a few minutes to review a speech, and the best time to do it is the same day that you delivered it. Your delivery is still fresh in your mind, as is your preparation for the speech.

When critiquing your own speech, you can apply many of the same criteria that you would when critiquing someone else’s speech. You will find an extensive list of these criteria in a previous Six Minutes article about speech analysis.

Those criteria are a great start, but you can also ask yourself many other questions too.

  • Overall, were you satisfied with your final speech? If not, why not?
  • Did you achieve your objective? Was your core message received by the audience?
  • Were you confident during your delivery? Were you more nervous or less nervous than previous speeches?
  • What audience feedback did you receive during or after delivery of the speech? What strengths were mentioned? What weaknesses were revealed?
  • What did you think of your delivery?
  • Did you have any stumbles? Were they caused by nervousness, or was there another cause?
  • How long did you speak? Was this shorter or longer than you had planned? If you were under time, this may be an indication that your speaking rate was a bit fast. If you were over time, this may be an indication that you should have cut more material.
  • Did you try any new techniques, either in the preparation phase or in your delivery? If so, what did you think? What lessons can you extract?

Depending on the context of the speech, a few other questions include:

  • Was your pre-speech audience analysis accurate? If not, what did you learn about this audience that you could apply to the speech to make it better?
  • If you led a Q&A session during the presentation, how did it go? From the types of questions asked, did it seem like your audience “got” the message?
  • If you obtained an audio recording, what did you learn from listening to it? Was your voice clear throughout? Did you have any distracting habits? (e.g. um’s, ah’s, trailing off at the end of sentences)
  • If you obtained a video recording, what did you learn from watching it? How was your posture and eye contact? Were your gestures varied and timed well? Did you have any distracting habits?

And, one final question:

  • If you were going to deliver the same speech to the same audience, what would you do differently?

Remember that the aim of the self-critique is not to beat yourself up over any slips or mistakes you might have made. Instead, the true aim is to celebrate your successes and look ahead to see how you can improve for your next speech.

Tree - Face the Wind

Self-Critique Example — Face the Wind

Overall, I’m very happy with my 2007 contest speech Face the Wind. I won the club, area, and division contests, and presented on the “big stage” at the district conference.

Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve the goal I had set for myself — winning the District 21 Speech Contest. I felt that I could have won, but the field of ten contestants was very strong.

Here’s my self-assessment, aided by the fact that I have an excellent video of my performance!

Speech Self-Critique: Strengths

  • I did my best. I honestly felt that I delivered the best possible speech that my skills allowed at that given time. As I was walking off the stage, I wanted to give someone a high-five because I knew the delivery was my best.
  • Gestures and Staging. I felt my choreography was second to none. I received numerous compliments on this aspect of the speech. This made me quite happy because I had spent a great deal of time working on gestures and staging.
  • I got laughter from the audience in most places where I was aiming for it.
  • Several audience members suggested that I have the skill set to be a full-time motivational speaker.
  • I had lots of fun through the whole process! I received such positive encouragement from so many people. The organizers of the district speech contest treated the contestants like royalty!

Speech Self-Critique: Weaknesses

  • I felt that some body movements were a little rigid at times, particularly during the speech opening. Was this the result of too much preparation (robotic), or not enough preparation to make the movements more fluid?
    • In the future, I should videotape my rehearsal sessions to see if I can pick up on this trait.
  • I think my timing and pauses could have been a little better in my delivery of humor punchlines.
    • In the future, I need to work on writing so I have better punchlines and punch words.
  • In a few instances, when I lowered the volume of my voice, I think I went too quiet. It may not have been loud enough for everyone to hear.
    • In the future, I need to keep my voice strong even during “quiet” lines.
  • Some feedback I received hinted that the core message could have been stronger by eliminating the entire Maximus story, and instead using the time for a stronger (and lengthier) call-to-action. Personally, I thought I needed this story to make a human connection. However, I concede that I’m probably a little too close to the story (i.e. my nephew!) to be entirely objective.
    • In the future, I need to solicit more feedback specifically about the core message and what might be done to strengthen it. Perhaps I need to devote a little more time to speech writing, and less to delivery techniques.

A question for you, my esteemed readers… How could I have improved the speech?

Speech Preparation Series

Next in the Speech Preparation Series

The last article in the Speech Preparation Series examines Toastmasters Speech Contests and the preparation necessary to be successful.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
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