June 11, 2011

How I critique myself

Hearing from audience member I'm still #1 on Google
I'm putting my money where my mouth is.

It is a frequent recommendation of mine that speakers videotape themselves on a regular basis, so they can be on the lookout for bad habits and mistakes. I try to do this, but am not nearly as regular as I would like to be. And sometimes my presentations are videotaped at organizations where it's not appropriate for me (or I'm not allowed) to post them publicly.

Yesterday I took video of a presentation I gave to one of my networking groups, based on a recent blog post about rookie mistakes. I've decided to show you my personal critiquing process.

I, like many other speakers and performers, am uber-sensitive and highly critical of myself. I try to be fair, but I tend to watch my videos with a mixture of fascination, angst and cringing.

Here's the video, with about five minutes of presenting and about five minutes of Q&A. Watch as much (or as little) as you like, then join me below for my critique of my bad habits!

Watch on YouTube if this video isn't working.

First, let's get the negative stuff out of the way.

1. I laugh at my own jokes too much.

2. My hands have a mind of their own; gestures tend to be repetitive.

3. I could have directed the audience better to my theme of "rookie mistakes." Another example of not enough preparation.

4. My closing is weak (as usual, as I find closings incredibly awkward). Closings are the bane of my existence as a presenter.

5. I make screwy faces, and I don't mean the goofy ones that I do on purpose.

6. I should have had the person with the video camera film the audience members as they asked questions so they could be heard better. I assumed sound would be okay in that room.

And, because every presentation has good parts, I always make note of what I liked and what I think worked.

1. I am clearly enjoying myself, and the audience is feeding back my positive energy.

2. I'm connecting well with the audience.

3. Most of the humor works the way I anticipated it, although I'm surprised the "blinding white building" line didn't get a laugh, as that's one reason our group left its last meeting location for this new one.

4. Despite the short lead time I gave myself to write and practice the presentation (you don't want to know), the structure helped me remember everything, and I didn't lose my place once.

5. As this was a more scripted presentation than what I typically give (and therefore outside my comfort zone), I think I did a pretty good job of coming across as natural and not overly memorized.

6. I'm very happy with the way the opening stories led into my presentation, and the way the closing picked up where I left off at the beginning.

And there you have it: A typical critique of my own presentation. While I've been working on my skills in front of audiences since I was a teenager (and been paid to speak for almost 20 years now), I know I still have a lot to learn, and I'm constantly working to improve.

I don't fall into the trap of comparing myself to other speakers, because we are all individuals who have our own styles and our own personalities. I struggle with my perception of "professional" (i.e. boring and stilted) vs. "authentic" or "fun" (i.e. undisciplined and informal). I realize there's much more gray area and overlap between these definitions than I allow.

I also know that some of my challenges may stick with me forever. Such is life. But I love what I do, and if I can continue to share that love and energy with my clients and audiences and help them find that joy in their own presentations, then I consider my job mostly done!

Do you critique yourself? Are you willing to share?

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