October 21, 2019 ~ 3 min read

The best way to improve a talk

Weekly TipsSpeaking

How do you get better at speaking in front of people?

There are many things you can do.

You can focus on getting in your reps, doing lots of talks.

You can work on amping up your energy, connecting to topics that pump you up.

But there's one technique I've used that has improved my talks more than anything else.

It's super simple, but also one of the hardest things to actually do. It's just this:

Record yourself on video, and force yourself to watch it.

The value of watching yourself

The key value of watching yourself is that you can no longer avoid your own physical and verbal tics.

You will notice where you stutter, where you struggle, where you look awkward - because you'll see it live on video.

You will notice where your phrasing feels off - because what sounds good in writing or in our heads sounds very different when spoken aloud.

You will notice when you're rushing, and when you're going too slow - because pacing when you're speaking feels very different than when listening.

You will notice all of these things, and then be able to work on them.

The most painful thing you'll ever do

The challenge here, and why most people won't actually follow this advice, is that watching and listening to yourself speak is one of the most painful things you'll ever do.

We all sound worse to ourselves than we do to others.

We hate the way our voice sounds when we hear it from the outside.

We hate the way we look, the way we move, the way we seem on camera.

It's painful to watch.

But it is the fastest and most powerful way to improve.

Record, watch, and iterate

The most polished talks I've ever given, I worked on them by using a simple loop.

I'd set up a camera recording myself, give the talk, and then watch it. Then do it again, trying to fix what was broken. And again.

This works best on shorter talks, because you can really run through the entire talk many times in a session. For longer talks you may want to do this loop just on particular sections of the talk.

But the power of seeing what is going right and what is going wrong and immediately being able to try to fix it is incredible.

It's the most painful thing you'll ever do, but if you're able to do it I guarantee your speaking will improve.

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Kevin Ball

Hi, I'm Kevin Ball (alias KBall). I'm a software engineer turned trainer and coach focused on communication and leadership skills. You can follow me on Twitter, or check out my software-focused work at Zendev.com.