How to vastly improve your speaking presentations in 15 minutes

You know how fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance?

Well, believe it or not, fifteen minutes is also the amount of time it takes to become infinitely more skilled at delivering speaking presentations. And here’s the best part – you don’t have hire an expensive presentations coach or even do any actual public speaking to get better at it. (Although, when it comes to speaking, getting real-life experience is never a bad thing.)

There may be coaches who can give you feedback that is as honest and on-point as you’ll give yourself using the technique I’m about to share with you, but they probably cost a fortune. In fact, when I used to coach emerging tech leaders on their presentation skills for $300 an hour, I’d pretty much just hold the camera while they ran through the following exercise a few times, gave themselves amazingly insightful feedback and made vast leaps forward in their speaking skill at every iteration.

And that, my friends, is how fifteen minutes could save you $300 or more on coaching!

For this exercise, all you’ll need is a smart phone and the determination to get over the awkwardness of viewing a recording of yourself speaking. It will be cringe-inducing for sure, but hopefully worth the discomfort for the results you’ll see once you get used to watching yourself speak more objectively.

So, if you’ve got just fifteen minutes, I’ve got the secrets for how to vastly improve your speaking skills. Here’s the breakdown, minute by minute, of a technique shared with me by Ed Tate, winner of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking in 2000:

Step 1) For 3 minutes: Record yourself speaking on any topic

The subject matter doesn’t matter. It could be gardening, HR policies, teaching kids how to write code, or walking through the steps to make your famous chile verde. Just pick a topic – any topic – and speak to the camera, as though you were speaking to an audience.

Step 2) For 3 minutes: Listen to the audio only, but don’t watch

Put the phone somewhere you can’t see it and, instead of watching your performance, just listen to it. How you sound? How are your vocal tone, pitch and pace? Did you use filler words such as “um” and “ah”? Did you notice any verbal habits you’d like to improve upon? Make notes about what you can improve next time. 

Step 3) For 3 minutes: Turn off the sound and watch the video.

Now reverse the strategy, turn off the sound and just watch the video of your speech. Pay particular attention to your facial expressions and body language. Do they support your message or distract from it? Make notes on anything you’d like to change.

Step 4) 3 minutes: Fast forward

If your phone has fast-forward capability, watch the video again at higher speed with no sound, to spot any repetitive gestures that could detract from your message. This might include jerky movements, waving of hands or other gestures your audience might find distracting. If you don’t have the ability to fast forward, watch again anyway, without sound, looking for any gestures that you’ve overused. 

Step 5) 3 minutes: Sound and video

Now put it all together, listening to the sound as you watch yourself present, making any final notes for feedback you’d like to remember before your next attempt.

Your fifteen minutes are now up, and you’ll have seen exactly what to do to polish your performance next time you speak. If you’d like to see immediate results, repeat the entire fifteen minute exercise again… and again, until you’re ready to get in front of a real live audience.

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Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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