Best PracticesBecome a better presenter -- with a little help from your friends

by TED Masterclass Team • May 12, 2020

Getting useful feedback can be a critical step in developing an effective presentation - it can also be harder to find than you might expect. Honest feedback calls on you to be vulnerable, and forces your feedback partner to sometimes deliver difficult constructive criticism. The good news is that this type of deep and authentic feedback can encourage personal growth and a willingness to take creative risks.

Get high-quality feedback that elevates your presentation skills by putting in a little extra preparation and focus.

First, decide who to ask for feedback

Feedback can feel personally risky if it’s coming from a close friend or colleague. Because these relationships are so important to us, honest feedback can end up feeling critical. In these situations, it can become tempting to give non-critical feedback, but that’s not helpful.

The person you work with to give you feedback should be someone:

  • You want to learn from, who pushes you to think creatively
  • With a different perspective - it can help to look beyond the people you spend a lot of time with personally or professionally
  • Who shares your enthusiasm for acquiring new skills and is excited for you to become a better presenter

Then, prepare to receive feedback

Just as important as deciding who will be giving you feedback, is creating an environment and mindset where giving and receiving constructive feedback is easy.

  • Create a distraction-free time and space for getting feedback. Ideally both of you should be present, focused, and open. If we’re feeling stressed or pressed for time, it’s hard to be a good feedback partner. That’s why it’s wise to tune in to how you’re feeling before you schedule a session.
  • Remind the person that you’re looking for honest feedback to be the best presenter you can be.
  • Before getting started, tell the person if there are any specific aspects of your idea or talk that you’d like them to focus feedback on.

Finally, ask the right questions

Giving feedback can be overwhelming for your partner if they don’t know what they should be focusing on. Decide on these areas ahead of time, and let your partner know. Then follow up with questions that will help them hone in on the most helpful feedback points for you.

Get overall feedback using these three questions:

  1. What works?
  2. What needs work?
  3. What’s a suggestion for one thing I might try?

Get specific feedback using these questions:

  • Delivery: How is it landing for you overall? Are there places where your attention is wandering? What’s distracting?
  • Content: Do you get this - will the audience? What questions do you have? Where are you engaged? Surprised? Moved? Is there a clear takeaway for the audience? Do you have any clarifying questions?

Good feedback is a gift that can really elevate your presentation skills. Make the most of your feedback opportunities with a little preparation.

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