Applying feedback to a speechFeb 15, 2021 7:22 AM
Toastmasters encourages positive feedback by making speech evaluations an integral part of the practice. Applying constructive criticism is valuable for improving speech content and delivery. How else are you supposed to know how an audience will react to what you say without fielding it in front of a live audience? In this post, I’ll discuss the process of receiving and applying feedback to a speech.
On Jul 22, 2019, I presented the first rendition of “Making a consistent cup of coffee” to the Mountain View Toastmasters club. I gave this speech twice as part of my “Evaluation and Feedback” project, where the objective was to present a speech on any topic, receive feedback, and apply the feedback to the second speech. Here is the speech.
Click here for a transcript of the speech.
During the evaluation section of the meeting, I was given feedback by a fellow Toastmaster, Steve, on things that I did well and things that I could improve on in the future. Despite this taking place over a year and a half ago, I clearly remember learning from his evaluation.
The first was that he noticed that there were oohs and laughing coming from the audience. I was surprised to hear that the audience enjoyed the speech; I was so tense that I never noticed the audience’s reaction. I’ve recently been getting better at gauging the audience, but it doesn’t come easy, especially in an online format.
He also observed my frequent use of the word “sour” to describe coffee. When I rewatched this recording, “sour” was very apparent. I dug up an old transcript I made of the speech and found that I used the word 14 times! That’s far too repetitive.
Finally, he challenged me to better incorporate eye contact with the audience to build rapport and engagement. I made this my primary goal for the next iteration of the speech. I’ve always acknowledged this as an area of potential improvement, so this next speech would be my crucible.
A scanned copy of my evaluation form. Thank you, Steve, for the feedback and permission to share this form!
Later that evening, at a club social event at Tied House, I got feedback from more members. One suggested that it was a bit weird just having the bottom piece of the AeroPress. Yes, that was probably true. Another told me that they were waiting in anticipation for a more profound message — and that I could have found a better word than “nice” to describe the experience.
With all of this feedback in my hands, I sat on it for a few months. When I came back to it again, I made some significant changes to the speech.
- I rewrote and memorized my opening and conclusions. It helped me set the pace and provided room for a more thoughtful conclusion.
- I made sure to actually bring my AeroPress. I planned to use the demonstration to make eye-contact with the entire audience by moving after each step in the process.
- I practiced a lot more than I did the first time around. The results speak for themselves — I was at ease and spoke with a better rhythm.
I presented the second rendition to the club on Dec 2, 2019. You might be interested in this post on practicing from an outline for more details on the preparation process.
Though only a few months difference, these two speeches feel leagues apart in terms of quality. The feedback I received had a strong influence on how I approached the speech the second time around. The practice also smoothed the delivery. And, though not in my control, the camera angle was a bit better. It’s actually challenging for me to sit through the first rendition of the speech, but much more comfortable to watch the second one several times over.
I attribute my improvement to great feedback from the entire club and the effort I invested in learning from previous experiences. I hope this short arc proves useful to you. If anything, keep recordings and watch yourself move the needle toward competency. I often feel as if progress is a fleeting goal that can never be reached. It’s motivating to be proven wrong and to watch evidence of my growth.