A really effective way to improve your public speaking talent is to pay attention to the feedback you are receiving from the audience and use that feedback to improve. Professional stand up comedians do this exceptionally well. They pay acute attention when they are on stage to what is working and what is not working, and use that information to improve their material and performance.
All successful people experience positive and negative feedback. In the beginning of their journey, successful people experience a lot more negative feedback than positive feedback. This is certainly true for stand up comedians. Naturally, we all enjoy positive feedback (ie praise, results, success, promotions) more than negative feedback (ie failure, lack of results, complaints, rejection).
You need to start thinking of feedback as your friend. A friend that helps you get where you want to go by telling you what is working and what is not. And, if feedback is your friend, negative feedback is your best friend. That best friend that knows you really well and really cares about you enough to give you blunt feedback when you need it most.
Here are some tips you to help you use feedback effectively.
Turn Down Your Inner Critic:
Learn to distinguish between self criticism and self feedback. Criticism is typically based on past pain and negative perceptions about yourself that may or may not be true. True or not, self criticism does not help you succeed. Self feedback, even it is based on a negative result, does help. Here's an example of the minority difference.
Feedback sounds like – "I felt that I could have varied my vocal tone more when I was telling the story about how my mother would try to get me to eat my brocoli. try that ". Self criticism sounds more like – "Your voice sounds so boring and monotone. Do you see the difference? Learn to identify the difference between your inner critic and useful inner feedback. Strive towards being able to be aware of your inner critic so you can turn down the volume when you hear it nagging, and turn up the volume on the useful feedback that is hidden underneath.
Record Your Presentation:
Either record your presentation on audio or video. There are multiple easy to use and inexpensive options that exist to record the audio of your presentation or the video. Sometimes the conference or event you are speaking at will be recording the all of the presentations and you can request a copy. This allows you to have a realistic record of how you presented rather than one that may be disturbed by your inner critic.
Watch or Listen To Your Presentation:
Sounds obvious, but after you record your presentation or performance, watch it or listen to it! I have seen people (including myself) record a presentation or performance and not watch or listen to it because they are afraid to see all the places that they messed up. Or depending you feel uncomfortable hearing the sound of your own voice, or watching yourself on video. Guess what, so do I? So do most comedians I know. Yet, every time I listen to myself or see myself on video I learn something about what I am doing or not doing. If you can learn to consistently suppress that inner critic while doing this evaluation, I bet you will find that there are a lot of things you do really well while presenting that either you were not aware or did not give yourself enough credit for. The other great thing about recording your presentation is that you may be able to turn that into a product to sell to others in the form of an audio CD or DVD.
Get A Coach, Mentor or Trainer:
There is a reason why professional athletes have coaches – to give them feedback to constantly improve their performance. Professional athletes are a great example of successful people who use positive and negative feedback to their advantage. People are sometimes reluctant to get a coach or mentor because because they are going to receive constant feedback about what is and what is not working. Many options exist – public speaking coaches; stand up comedy classes; groups like Toastmasters; presentation skills work shops. There are also great books, audio programs and courses on public speaking, self improvement and success that you can use. You could ask a more experienced speaker to watch you and give you some feedback. Try out several of these to find which ones work best for you. Remember to communicate to your coach, mentor or group what your goals are in terms of improvement so they can specifically help you reach those goals.