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Tag Archives: Public Speaking Feedback

Stating the Obvious

Why do we need and value feedback and coaching? Because it is nearly impossible to 1) clarify your thoughts, 2) organize them into a cohesive presentation and 3) deliver them effectively while at the same time observing your own distracting quirks, de-railers and inconsistencies.   This 82 second video-test is a great example of this. Tell me how you do. -Charlotte


What Good Are Your Words if We Can’t Understand You?

Did your mother ever say to you, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”? That may be true if you are trying to maintain harmony in your household, but it’s bad advice for aspiring public speakers. How you say the words is just as important as the words you choose. Take for example the important skill of articulation. When you combine poor enunciation with a fast, nervous pace, it is easy to be misunderstood, and possibly even insulting to others.

The other day I was working out to an exercise DVD with my head down, shuffling side to side, not looking at the TV when the instructor yelled “Congressman Brown, Congressman Brown!” I stopped in my tracks and stood up. What?! Surely he didn’t just say that. I rewound the clip and this time I watched while I listened and it turns out that the words were “cover some ground, cover some ground.” OK, that made more sense.

The best way to improve your articulation skills is to speak into a tape recorder and listen back to it. Better yet, have someone else listen to it and tell you what they heard. It’s a better technique than videotaping because the only cue a listener has to understand you is your verbal delivery.

Do you want to hear a great example of verbal articulation? Listen to a clip of Anna Deveare Smith. She’s a master.

– Barbara

“As you know, transitions are not easy.” Maria Shriver

I don’t know much about Maria and Arnold, but I absolutely read this top story in the news this week.  Sometimes celebrities fall apart and the train wreck inspires serious voyeurism. Sometimes, a statement like this inspires an unexpected train of thought. Ms. Shriver’s quote continues as follows, “It’s so stressful to not know what you’re doing next. People ask you what are you doing and then they can’t believe that you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Her honesty and candor struck me. Transitions are really hard, and disorienting. Who can’t relate? After all, while most of us gave up our childhood blankie, we still have “transitional” objects to support us through those disconnected feelings in our hours and days. Watch people and notice how much cell phones, gadgetry, and all the social media entertainments are being used as transitional objects. And believe me, I am no exception.

Of course, not all transitions are not created equally.  But, her comment resonated for me because I spend so much of my coaching time helping speakers move through the shadows of speaking transitions. PowerPoint seriously exaggerates the issue because when you move your audience visually through a deck, connecting the dots can be awkward and apparent. Point A and Point B are clear in your mind, but getting from one to the other is a challenging bridge to cross for yourself and for your audience.

I have come to love these open spaces. Links and connection possibilities. Digging into these shadows is where we smooth and grease the wheels of the presentation and where the form of ideas begin to take shape as a whole. We lean into it and from there find your presentation flow. It’s tremendously rewarding.

I think Maria Shriver was brave and truthful and I hope she and her husband take the time they need to lean in, reorient and move forward.


Ten Speakers, Two Hours, What do I Remember?

At our town’s annual community celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, I listened to our mayor, our congressman, our school super, three students, a rabbi and a pastor speak.  It is an uplifting and wonderful event, especially the voices of the beautiful student singers and gospel performers.  This celebration is a great reminder of the work and courage of Martin Luther King, Jr. and of the course of justice for all in our United States.

But back to the speakers.  While all their intentions were noble, those who read their notes and paraphrased the ideas of non-violent protest and social justice –  did not move me. Those who used the day to frame their political messages – did not move me. Those who summarized King’s life and struggle and courage, appealed to me, but – did not move me. The pastor who simply read the letter Martin Luther King wrote from a Birmingham jail  – moved me to tears.  This heartbreaking letter written in 1963 from a small jail cell (he used toilet paper to pen his words) is so filled with integrity, intelligence, clarity, and passion, that his words whispered in my ear and entered my heart. The pastor read this fiery letter with intensity, outrage and connection. He gave us the real Martin Luther King Jr. and a reminder that his legacy, his voice, is very much alive.

So when we speak to honor others –  bring a powerful story of the effect of that person on your life, or bring their words to life; nothing else will do them (or you)  justice.

Here is a clip of the letter recorded on YouTube.

-Charlotte Dietz


It’s the time to Give and Receive….Feedback

I believe that one of the greatest benefits of our group workshops is the feedback loop. This is where people give real and specific comments about your presentation, addressing everything from eye contact, vocal tone, body language, content, and often issues that stand out that aren’t even on your radar. It’s one of the best tools in our bootcamp for improving presentation skills. At its core, one-one-one coaching is about actionable feedback and refinement.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? I just tell you what I like and what needs to be improved so you can build self-awareness, skill and confidence. And you definitely want it. Who isn’t interested in a group of people focusing on what you say and how you say it so you can be the best you possible?

 And yet, most people are REALLY BAD at giving feedback. They either cop out because they don’t want to say the difficult stuff or they are blunt to the point of being rude. The result is either vague comments like, “Yeah, that was good…” or really awkward, unhelpful comments, like “Wow, you seem really nervous up there.” And how do either of these comments help? They don’t. 

 We have integrated a learning module called “How to Give Feedback” in our session – how to say three specific, positive things and three unambiguous suggestions for improvement. How to only give feedback in the “I” voice (“I liked how you paused and smiled at the group before you started talking”) or (“I found it distracting when you kept jingling your change in your pockets.”) because the “I” voice is easier to for us to internalize.  We teach how to never give feedback in the YOU voice (” You look comfortable,” “You seem nervous”) because the YOU voice is too judgmental and experienced as an attack.

 Without this type of feedback, people go through life with the worst handshake in the world or oblivious to the fact that their perfume is overpowering.  And all the while others are making snap judgments about them. 

 I believe that excellent communicators, leaders, bosses, parents and friends know how to give and receive feedback that is constructive, truthful and in the best interest of the people around them. Try giving someone specific feedback today. Notice the difference.

Next blog subject:  How to Receive Feedback-


I Don’t Have Time to Practice

The #1 response I get when I recommend to my clients that they factor in time to practice their speech is “I don’t have time,”  followed by “I know this stuff, I don’t need to practice.”  Let’s tackle the first one today, and for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you truly cannot find time in your calendar to deliver your speech from start to finish at least once.  Then it’s time for Plan B.  Below are three ways you can practice the fundamentals of effective speaking while going through your daily routine:

1.        Running a meeting: Practice speaking in a succinct manner when you introduce the agenda, the purpose of the meeting, and the ideal outcome you will achieve before everyone goes back to their desks.

2.      Ordering from a menu: How often do you hold up the ordering process because you don’t know what you want or have a hard time communicating your order?  Today you will practice improved communication:   scan the menu, think it through in your head, when the waitperson comes to the table, look them in the eye and without any word fillers, tell them what you want. By the way, you can do this at the drive-thru as well. Not one “um” – that’s the goal.

3.       Leaving a voicemail message: This is the best way to critique yourself.  The next time you get someone’s voicemail greeting, leave your message and then press the * key (or whichever key allows playback) and listen to yourself.  How did you do?  What can be improved? Then, erase your first message and try again.  Voila – instant, real world practice.

Now do you see why we emphasize practicing your speech?

– Barbara Roche

Art Imitating Life

I am a big fan of the HBO series, In Treatment, in which an NYC therapist, (played by Gabriel Byrne) grapples with his patients’ issues as well as his own.  Each week features three patient sessions and then one of Byrne with his own therapist (the amazing Amy Ryan). This year I have found the storyline that includes Byrne and his therapist to be absolutely riveting. Way more compelling than the dramas of his patients, though the writing and acting is superb in all of them. (Actually the Debra Winger character/storyline did nothing for me, but you might disagree.)

Here is the thing that fascinates me: when Byrne’s character is in the role of the therapist, he is competent, smart, compassionate, and really committed to helping his clients unravel their issues.  But, when he is on the other side of the couch he is confused, depressed, hostile, really a man who, as he says, “has lost his way.” How do we reconcile this inconsistency, where on the one hand he is a professional so capable of helping others and yet, unable to help himself?

To me, this show is a perfect metaphor for the pressure we experience when we take the podium. It is a struggle to see ourselves clearly when we are in the hot seat, when it’s our turn to stand and deliver a presentation in front of others. For most of us, it is virtually impossible to bring an objective eye to our own performance. Feedback from a neutral voice is, in my mind, the only way to get it right: to see your way through your speech clearly.  So, do yourself a favor; if you are concerned about an upcoming presentation, relax. Get help. Risk being in the hot seat and enjoy all the rewards that will flow from this process.

Charlotte Dietz