The Best Self-Evaluation Tool in Speaking

Video on Phone
You probably already have the best self-evaluation tool in speaking . . . your cell phone (or tablet), assuming you can use it to take videos.Last week, I held a presentation skills workshop for a small group, in which each of the six participants gave a 5-7 minute speech, which I video-recorded on my iPad.  Immediately after each participant’s speech, the participant watched their video (privately, with headphones), then the other participants gave brief evaluations, followed by my brief coaching.

Many of the participants dreaded watching themselves on video, which is one reason I had them do it immediately afterwards.  I knew from my own experience and from working with others that very few people will watch themselves later.

However, the participants were mostly pleasantly surprised.  They weren’t that bad, even if they were their own worst critics.  They also noticed things that they didn’t even know they were doing, such as saying ums, smacking lips, swaying, wringing hands and other things that distracted from their message.

I’ll never forget the first few times I saw myself on video.  The first time was when I did a stand-up comedy routine in front of a live, paying audience as part of a stand-up comedy class.  I couldn’t believe how busy and distracting my patterned dress was.  Of course someone could have told me, but seeing it for myself made it unforgettable.  From watching my video that day, I learned that clothing does matter!

The next time I saw myself on video, I noticed that I kept hitching up my pants!  I didn’t even know I was doing it.  From watching my video that day, I learned, yet again, that clothing does matter (wear a belt on loose pants!).

When I work with clients, getting them to take my advice is so much easier if they can see the need for change without me saying anything.  I had one client who, in the first 3 minutes of his presentations had 30 ums.  I could have told him we needed to work on reducing the ums, but it was so much more effective to have him watch the first 3 minutes of his presentation, turn to me and say, “I say way too many ums!  How can I eliminate them?”

People are much more motivated to change when they can see the need for themselves.I know it can be painful to watch yourself, but if you really want to change you will do it.  The best athletes study their performance, shouldn’t you?

At your next presentation–at work, at Toastmasters, or elsewhere, ask a friend or coworker to video you (or bring your own tripod, like a table top tripod) and then, within 24 hours watch it.  If you have time, watch it without the sound, too, to focus on the visual elements of your presentation.

What are YOU doing that you don’t even know?  Know thyself!

Free ebook–Public Speaking Lessons from TED Talks

Free until Saturday, March 8, 2014

Get your free Kindle version of the short e-book,
Public Speaking Lessons from TED Talks: The Good and the Bad
from the 10 Most-Viewed TED Talks
Imagine giving a powerful, TEDTalk-Style Presentation.  You can learn insightful tips from this ebook, a compilation my past 10 posts on the top 10 most-viewed TED Talks.  The good.  The bad.  And, how you can apply the lessons.

It’s free on Kindle through Saturday (after Saturday, it’s only $0.99).

Here is the “Big Take Away” from each of the TED Talks–read more in the ebook

#10—Use “you” language and bring your audience into a scene. (The Puzzle of Motivation, Dan Pink)

#9—A unique idea, well-described or demonstrated, will captivate an audience.  (The SixthSense Interaction, Patti Maes)

#8—If you have fascinating visuals, you can let them be the star. (Underwater Astonishments, David Gallo)

#7— Fake it till you become it! (Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, Amy Cuddy)

#6— Content trumps delivery.  What you say (or show) is important. (The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense, Pranav Mistry)

#5—Telling 3 stories can make a great speech. (How to Live Before You Die, Steve Jobs)

#4— Turn a tragedy into insight for yourself and for others. (My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor)

#3—Be real. Be vulnerable. Connect. (The Power of Vulnerability, Brenè Brown)

#2—Start with why. (How Great Leaders Inspire Action–Simon Sinek)

#1—Start with humor.  End with heart. (How Schools Kill Creativity, Ken Robinson)

Click here for the KINDLE VERSION Free until Saturday

If you have a chance and can leave a review on Amazon, I’d appreciate it!

Speaking Tips from TEDTalk #6: The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology (Pranav Mistry)

The SixthSense Technology

Video and transcript

The Big Idea:  We can better enable our physical world to interact with the world of data, which ultimately will help us to stay human.

The Overall Construct of the speech:  A demonstration, mostly via video.  Some of the demonstration video appears in the #9 TEDTalk, The SixthSense Interaction, which was presented several months prior to this talk in 2009 (and I discussed in a previous post).

Not perfect: 

I was momentarily confused at the beginning with his opening sentence:  “We grew up interacting with the physical objects around us.”  I thought, does he mean “we” in the inclusive sense of “you and I” or “we all”?  Or, does he mean “we” as a reference to himself and some others (as in “My friends and I”).

He could have enhanced his meaning with gestures, gesturing out to the audience, to indicate the “we” included them, but he didn’t.

In addition to the slight confusion of meaning right off the bat, the next few sentences contained syntax (sentence structure) errors (such as, saying “we everyday use” instead of “we use everyday” and “unlike our most computing devices” instead of “unlike most of our computing devices”).

Next, the first couple of static PowerPoint slides with words distracted me.


I wondered why he put a red exclamation point on the left.  I wondered why the word “leverage” was offset.  Why were some words bolded?  And what did that sentence mean?  His verbal description was more to the point.

Combine bad PowerPoint, confusion of meaning, syntax errors and then add in Indian-accented English and you have a difficult beginning.

But maybe this beginning wasn’t so difficult for the live audience in India.

Fortunately things got better quickly.

What the speaker nailed: 

He captured his sense of wonder and conveyed it to the audience.  He started out describing how he took apart 4 computer mouses to see how he might use a computer to interact in the physical world.

Mouses taken apart

And then he showed all the clever and inexpensive inventions that his investigations led to.

A few . . .

A pen that can draw in 3-D:

pen that draws in 3d

Placing an object on a map (instead of using keywords) to find a location (such as finding an airport coffee shop by placing a mug on the airport map):

Airport Map

Taking a picture using gestures:

Taking a picture using gestures

A paper “laptop”:

Paper Laptop

The Big Take Away:  Content trumps delivery.  What you say (or show) is important.

Next week: How to Live Before You Die (Steve Jobs)

Speaking Tips from TEDTalk #7: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are (Amy Cuddy)



Video and transcript here

The Big Idea:  Amy Cuddy shares how “power posing,” standing or sitting in a posture of confidence, even when you don’t feel confident, can affect testosterone (dominance hormone) and cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body, causing you to feel and be perceived as more confident.  It’s not “fake it till you make it.”  It’s “fake it till you become it.”

The overall construct of the speech:  A persuasive, informative speech, supported by research.

Not perfect:  Amy Cuddy’s talk was so inherently interesting and her style so authentic, that it was easy to overlook imperfections on the first viewing.  On the second viewing, I took notes.

Most noticeable, given the subject of her talk, were indications of insecurity:

1. Filler words:  uh, um.  She had a couple dozen of these.  Noticeable, but generally not distracting in a 21 minute talk.  She also used quite a few “so” and “and” connecting words.

2. Touching her face/chin.  She touched her lower face/chin a half-dozen times.  The reasons for this seemed to be that she needed a moment to compose herself (in an emotional part of her speech), or she used the gesture to gather her thoughts, or she might have had a slightly dry mouth.

Emotional control:

Amy Cuddy emotion

composing thoughts:


Amy cuddy hand on face

3. Hair in face.  Her hair style, which may have simply been a style choice, hid part of her face.  When I see women (or men) with hair over part of their faces, I wonder if they are trying to hide themselves.  Plus, when the audience can’t see your face, you’ve lost some connection.

Amy cuddy close up2

4. Fast-paced, with sniffing breaths.  Her overall pace was rather fast and often punctuated by quick breath intakes through her nose.  On one hand, it was good for her vocal cords to breath through her nose rather than her mouth (breathing through your mouth can dry out your vocal cords), but on the other hand it did make her quick breaths more noticeable.  She could have slowed down and have taken longer breaths.

5. Slightly hunched posture.  Her posture was slightly hunched at the shoulders, giving her a slightly defensive look.  Related to this was her overall tucked-elbow gesturing.  She rarely was expansive with her gestures.

And now, I will reveal a bias, which I’m pretty sure most people share:  I am more critical of a woman’s appearance than a man’s.  Amy Cuddy is a beautiful woman.  More than once I thought, “She has flawlessly beautiful skin.”  I also found myself critiquing her classy outfit.  “That black makes her fade into the background . . . her wide necklace cuts her off at the throat . . . that lipstick is too purple.”

I took away a personal lesson from my realization of my bias:  As a woman, I really do need to pay closer attention to my appearance than a man!  It might not be fair, but that’s how it is.

Enough of the trivial critique.  Amy Cuddy really did hit it out of the ball park with this talk.

What the speaker nailed:

Gave a practical take-away from research.  After supporting her point that your body language not only affects what people think about you, but what you think about yourself (and that you can change your thoughts by changing your pose), she gave a call to action:  Try a power pose and share the science.  She proved that this was practical advice with her research results on power posing before job interviews.

Engaged the audience’s imagination.

“Imagine this was the person interviewing you” and showing a picture of an expressionless interviewer.

Expressionless interviewer

Used simple visuals, mostly pictures.

She started her talk with some humorous visuals of body language, which relaxed the audience (and probably her, also).

This was probably one of the more complicated visuals, which explained how the experiment was conducted in which cortisol and testosterone levels were measured after either low or high power poses:

Amy Cuddy Experiment

As might be expected, some of the research results were shown in graphical form:

high low

Arrows in the colored bars would have more clearly indicated a decrease or increase of cortisol (high power poses decreased the level of cortisol, the stress hormone and low power poses increased it).

Was vulnerable and preemptively addressed a common objection.

The idea of “fake it till you make it” can lead to the objection of “I don’t want to feel like an impostor.”  She addressed that objection head-on with a personal story, that at one point made me tear up, and made the audience break out into applause.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, at least watch this story (from 16:12-19:28).

The Big Take Away (especially applicable to public speaking):  Fake it till you become it!

Next week:

Pranav Mistry: The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology

Speaking Tips from TEDTalk #9: The SixthSense Interaction (Pattie Maes)

hand phone

Video and transcript here

The Big Idea:  An inexpensive, wearable device (SixthSense) can interact with our environment to give us easy access to relevant information to help us make better decisions.

The overall construct of the speech:  A demonstration, mostly via video.  The demonstration was of a device that functioned somewhat like Google Glass, but which was worn like a necklace, made of off-the-shelf components: a webcam, a portable, battery-powered projection system and a mirror.  The components communicated with a person’s cell phone, which acted as the communication and computation device.

Not perfect:  This speech lacked many of the polished presentation aspects you might expect from a TED Talk.

This was apparent in the very first sentence, a long, somewhat confusing opening sentence:   “I’ve been intrigued by this question of whether we could evolve or develop a sixth sense — a sense that would give us seamless access and easy access to meta-information or information that may exist somewhere that may be relevant to help us make the right decision about whatever it is that we’re coming across.” 

Yikes.  “Meta-information.”   Pattie Maes tried to explain that term, which was helpful, but I found myself distracted by such academic  jargon.

Her attempts at humor also fell a bit flat.  For example:  “When you meet someone here at TED — and this is the top networking place, of course, of the year — you don’t shake somebody’s hand and then say, ‘Can you hold on for a moment while I take out my phone and Google you?’”  It’s a funny idea to imagine, but she didn’t play it up.  She acted it out quite quickly, without any exaggeration of movement or facial expression (which would have made it funnier), and then she didn’t pause for people to imagine the silliness of it.

The ending was also quite abrupt.  Pattie Maes again credited the  PhD student, Pranav Mistry, who “was the genius” behind the device (and I kept wondering, “Well, then why isn’t he up there?”). But, on the positive side, she did end with stretching our imaginations even more “. . . maybe in another 10 years we’ll be here with the ultimate sixth sense brain implant.”

Clothing:  Yeah, I’m going to mention what she was wearing.  All black.  Boring, especially with a dark blue background, with dark shadows and a black stage.  Also since she was wearing the device, her black shirt made it harder to see.

Pattie Maes

What the speaker nailed:  Not talking too much!  This talk is only about 8.5 minutes long, and much of it is a video demonstration of what was a fascinating idea in 2009, when the talk was presented.

Some of the demonstrations:

  • Telling time by drawing a watch on your arm.
  • Taking pictures by making a rectangle with your fingers.
  • Getting a word cloud on someone you just met with words from their blog and personal web pages.

word cloud

With the example of the device creating a word cloud when you meet someone, she effectively circled back to her opening example of meeting someone and the awkwardness of asking them to wait while you googled them to get some information on them.  Instead of that awkward exchange, the SixthSense device would project a word cloud about them.

Clearly the reason this speech was the ninth-most watched TED video is that it was a captivating idea, demonstrated clearly.

The biggest take-away:  A unique idea, well-described or demonstrated, will captivate an audience.

Next week: David Gallo: Underwater Astonishments

Speaking Tips from TED Talk #10 The Puzzle of Motivation (Dan Pink)

This is the first in a series of 10 posts, looking at the public speaking lessons from each of the top 10-most viewed TED Talks.

Dan Pink:  The Puzzle of Motivation

Daniel Pink

video and transcript here

The Big Idea:  Science has proven what business is only slowly realizing: Using incentives as rewards in business doesn’t work well for most tasks.  In fact they can destroy creativity.

The overall construct of the speech:  A persuasive speech using the construct of a lawyer presenting a case to a jury (the audience).

Not perfect:  He used um as a filler word fairly often, about six times in just the first minute (and not so much after that).  He also sometimes spoke using a pointing finger gesture, which can make some people feel like they are being scolded or talked down to.  Sometimes he spoke so quickly that he seemed to get out of breath momentarily.

Conversational style of speaking:  “Then they present all of the stuff that they’ve developed to their teammates . . .”  “Stuff” may not be the most elegant word, but it’s how we talk.

Natural gestures:  His gestures fit his emphatic personality, with his hands moving in rhythm to the cadence of his speech. He also used descriptive gestures (e.g. when he talked about having a narrow focus, he held up his hands like blinders on either side of his face).  Some of his gestures were repetitive, but I didn’t find them distracting.

Attention-getting opening:  “I need to make a confession . . .”

Humor at the start:  four lines—all self-deprecating humor—got laughs in the first minute.  One example:   “I, in fact, graduated in the part of my law school class that made the top 90 percent possible.”

Global dexterity:  He clarified meaning for the audience in Oxford, England: “Now, in America, law is a professional degree: you get your university degree, then you go on to law school.”  He also used a “local” example:  “Let’s go across the pond to the London School of Economics.”

Set the stage for persuasion:  “I want to make a hard-headed, evidence-based, dare I say lawyerly case, for rethinking how we run our businesses.”

Gave the audience a role:  “So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, take a look at this.”

Engaged the audience intellectually and personally (by using “you” language):  “Suppose I’m the experimenter. I bring you into a room. I give you a candle, some thumbtacks and some matches. And I say to you, ‘Your job is to attach the candle to the wall so the wax doesn’t drip onto the table.’ Now what would you do?”

Used visuals to enhance the audience’s imagination.  The experiment is easier to imagine with a visual.

Dan pink candle problem

Acknowledged his own expertise, without tooting his own horn:  “I spent the last couple of years looking at the science of human motivation, particularly the dynamics of extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators.”.

Sign-posted important points:  “Let me tell you why this is so important.” Statements like this, if not overdone, get the listener to pay closer attention.  He also said some things twice for emphasis.  “Think about your own work.  Think about your own work.”  And, “And here’s the best part.  Here’s the best part.”  At the end, he was a bit obvious with “Let me wrap up” but it did frame the summary that followed as a summary.

Appealed to the audience’s own experience for validation of the concept:   “Think about your own work.  Are the problems that you face . . .”

Left us wanting more:  In talking about a new “operating system for our businesses” he mentions three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  He then states “I want to talk today only about autonomy.”  Very smart move if he has a book out with the other points, or wants to have people hire him to speak on the other points.

Supported his points with examples:  “Let me give you some examples of some radical notions of self-direction.”

A line you can use when hardly anyone raises their hands:  “Looks like less than half of you.”  This is a funny line because even “less than half” is a gross exaggeration.

Your thoughts?

How to Self-Evaluate Your Speech

Do you want to greatly improve your presentations?

I could just say, “hire me,” but you can improve your presentations all on your own, too.  You can self-evaluate.

A good self-evaluation is a journey of awareness.  A great self-evaluation is one that starts with preparation and planning well before you give your speech.

To prepare you need to have the equipment to record.  You can buy an inexpensive video recorder and a tripod or buy just a voice recorder.  Most phones have a recording feature (video and/or audio).  If you want to be unobtrusive in your recording, just do the audio.

Additionally, plan one or two specific goals for speaker improvement that you will work on during the speech.  Record and evaluate yourself practicing.  Record your live presentation and evaluate that, too.

Watch or listen to yourself at least once, but 3 times or 4 times will allow you to evaluate at a deeper level.

Speech Self-Evaluation Checklist

1st viewing/listening: The first time is partly to recover from the shock of hearing or seeing yourself!

__overall effect,

__audience response

__anything that particularly stands out, positive or negative.

__How did you do on the one or two specific goals you had set?

__Did your speech fit the audience and context of the event?  (e.g.  speeches to teenagers in a high school classroom would typically emphasize different things, and be delivered differently than speeches to senior citizens on a cruise ship)

2nd listening: The second time just listen (turn off the visual), focusing on content, making an outline as you listen:

__Did you get the audience’s attention at the start?  And, was your “attention-getter” relevant to the topic?

__Did your introduction clearly give your audience both a reason to listen, and a clear direction (a clear thesis)?

__Could you outline your own speech (was the organization easy to follow)?

__Did you support your points with examples, stories, statistics, metaphors, analogies?

__Did the transitions maintain flow?

__Did you ramble?

__During the speech did you connect with head (logic), heart (emotion), hand (action) and leave your audience with something to think, feel or do?

__Did you end powerfully?  Did you call back your key points?  Did your ending provide a feeling of closure? Did you have a call to action?

3rd listening: The third time, again just listen, focusing on voice (turn off the visual):

__Did you vary your vocal pace, pitch and volume in a way that enforced your message and kept it engaging?

__Do you need to project more?

__How was your use of language?
__Appropriate to audience?
__No jargon or slang that the audience wouldn’t relate to
__Good enunciation and correct pronunciation and grammar
__Little to no filler words (use of Ahs, Ums)
__Did you use rhetorical devices (e.g. simile, contrast, rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, rule of 3)

__Did you pause long enough after important points or rhetorical questions or after you said something funny (did you let people have the time to laugh or did you “step-on” the laughs)?

4th viewing: The fourth time, If you have video, watch the video again, leaving on the audio, but focusing on the visual:

__How was your eye contact?

__Did you speak from memorable key words or did you look down at wordy notes too much?

__Did you use sustained eye contact for entire thoughts? Or, did you flit or scan?

__Did your facial expressions, body language (stance, movement) and gestures distract from or enforce the message?

__Did your gestures look natural?

__Was your attire appropriate?  Video, especially, makes you reconsider busy prints!

__ Did you move on purpose mostly (or was there noticeable pacing, rocking, hand-wringing, etc.)?

__If you used visual aids, were they easy to see and integrated smoothly?

A wrap up question:

If you had the opportunity to deliver this speech again next week, what are the top 1-3 changes that you would make?

Self-evaluation and recordings can also be shared with another speaking professional or a presentation coach.

Self-evaluate for more powerful presentations!