One of the most common questions I get asked when it comes to presenting either on stage or live over social media is “should I watch myself back and critique my performance?”. This is a really tricky one as self-evaluation can be an uncomfortable process and different for everyone, but it’s so important for understanding and improving your skills moving forward.
If I am presenting in person to an audience either on-stage or in a more intimate, seminar style setting, I always try to record my performance. These rules also apply for Facebook Lives, Instagram Stories, and any other one-take style videos. I’ll then take a couple of days out before watching it back, just once. I take notes as I go, and then move on. For me, this means I pick up on any mistakes I’ve made, missed information or opportunities, I can note down what worked and what didn’t, and remember any impromptu laughs or comments I might want to use again. Every speaker is different and when you watch back you might find that you’re pausing too long, or talking too fast, or standing too still – but you’ll also more than likely feel pretty good, and realise you’re speaking with more confidence and personality than you felt like in the moment.
The important thing is not to overwatch, hence my “one replay only” rule. No good can come from obsessing over every change of tone, every odd hand movement, every tiny stutter. So once you’ve taken your notes, archive your video, congratulate yourself on a job well done, and go pour yourself a glass of wine.
However, like any rule, there are some exceptions. For a presentation you give multiple times, there’s no need to re-watch every session you deliver. Personally, I’ll only watch back if I’ve added new material, or if I have a new type or size of audience that I’ve never presented to before. Another exception for me are if you’re hosting, moderating or interviewing. This is a different kind of public speaking, where performing naturally and authentically is key, and too much self-critique here can take away from that realism.
Finally, the scariest but most productive thing to do is ask for feedback from your audience. After all, they’re the ones who really decide if your presentation has been a success or not! If this isn’t possible, ask a coach, colleague or mentor to watch your performance, live if possible, take notes, and offer both positive affirmation and contructive criticism. Never be afraid to ask for help – public speaking and personal communication an inherently collaborative process, you can’t do it alone!
So what do you think? Are you going to watch your next presentation back, or hit the delete button and move on! Let me know!