How Speakers Can Handle Getting Feedback

Getting feedback on a speech is how we become better speakers
Getting feedback on a speech is how we become better speakers
Image Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

When we give a speech we understand the importance of public speaking and so we spend time writing a speech that we think that our audience will enjoy hearing. We (hopefully) spend time practicing what we will be saying and then when the big day arrives, we get up in front of our audience and we deliver the best speech that we are able to give. However, we all realize that we probably could have done a better job. We’ll never learn what we could have done better unless we get some feedback. However, do we know how to receive that feedback?

How To Receive Feedback

I must confess that I do not like to receive feedback. After I am done giving a speech, I sorta feel that I’m over and done with that speech. In my mind there is very little to be gained by spending more time talking about something that is now firmly in my past. I am, of course, wrong. There is actually a lot to be gained by having a chance to sit down with someone who saw you give a speech and getting their feedback on your performance. This is the only way that any of us is going to get better.

Look, in the speech that you gave, there were probably some good things that you did. Clever ways that you described things and times that you got your audience to laugh or be surprised. However, when you are receiving feedback you cannot expect all of your feedback to be complements about how good you did. We all need to keep in mind that no speech that we give is ever perfectp>

In order to give a really, really good speech, you would have had to have mastered a large number of individual tasks. None of us have gotten all of these speaking skills down yet. What this means is that the person who is offering you feedback is going to be able to let you know what they saw. What parts of your speech didn’t work for them, what feel flat, what was confusing, what made them check their watch to see how much longer you were going to be speaking? I don’t enjoy receiving this kind of feedback, but this is where the real learning occurs: what do I have to work on for next time?

Feedback Only Reflects One Person’s View

I do realize that getting feedback from someone on how they viewed one of my speeches is very important. However, even as I’m getting that feedback there is something that I need to keep in mind. This is that I’m getting feedback from only one person. Yes, they heard my speech, yes they have some thoughts on how well I did; however, their thoughts are just their thoughts.

Every evaluator’s views of your speech will be subjective. One of the most important things that we need to remember as we get feedback is that the person who is giving it to us does not speak for our audience. Nobody elected them to come and tell us what the whole audience thought of our speech. Rather, they are letting us know what one member of the audience thought of our speech and although valuable, this does not mean that everyone else thought the same way.

In my speaking career there have been many times where after I’ve given a speech someone who was in the audience will come up to me and want to talk about my speech. More often than not, there will be some part of my speech that just “didn’t work” for them and they want to tell me why. I’ll politely listen to them and thank them for their input. What always seems to happen in these cases is that as I talk to others who were in the audience, they had no problems with that part of my speech. Clearly everyone had their own interpretation of how my speech went.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, one of our goals should be to always be trying to become better speakers by sharing the benefits of public speaking with our audience. We can do our best to give an excellent speech, but we all have to realize that we’ll never be perfect. Instead, we need to be looking for ways to improve. One such way is to get feedback from people who were in our audience and who have suggestions on what we should change about our speech.

When you receive feedback from an audience member, you need to be in the mood to get this kind of feedback. You’ll have to understand that feedback is not all about complements. Instead, you are going to hear about things that you did that didn’t work for the person who is giving you feedback. None of us is perfect and the feedback that you’ll be getting will point out to you what speaking skills you still need to be working on. When you are getting feedback you need to keep in mind that you are just hearing one person’s opinion. The audience did not elect them to provide you with feedback and their opinion may not reflect the opinion of the rest of the audience. It’s still valuable, but you are going to have to take it with a grain of salt.

Every speech that we give is yet another opportunity for us to become better speakers. However, the only way that this is going to happen is if we understand what we did right during our speech and what we did wrong. Getting feedback from someone who was in the audience is a great way to understand what we need to change the next time we give a speech. You need to learn to welcome feedback and understand how best to use it when it is given to you.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it would be a good idea to ask for feedback from some audience members before you start to give your speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we give a speech, we have a real challenge on our hands. We understand the importance of public speaking and we want to be able to keep our audience’s attention for the entire speech. However, listening to any one person talk for any length of time can become boring. How are you going to hold on to your audience’s attention from the time that you start your speech until the time that you wrap things up? As speakers, we have a number of different tools available to us, but one of the most powerful is vocal variety.