What every great public speaker asks their audience – what did you learn from my talk?

 In public speaking
my-view-zagreb-leap-summit

As many readers know, I speak at a lot of events every year. They vary from huge halls, like above in Zagreb where I spoke to 800 people, or a group of 300 from a major Bank’s Digital team, or a group of 100 high school students, shown below.

Without seeming arrogant, I’ve been told I am a good public speaker. Repeat bookings and testimonials tell me so, but I am never satisfied.

Recently I have enlisted the help of an “ImpactTologist” – my friend Martin Brooks to see how I can improve my content and delivery every time I speak. He has given me some brilliant advice that I have already put into practice.  

Generally when I come off stage and mingle with guests and delegates after my talk, they say to me “That was a great talk.”

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Of course I thank them for their kind words, but it was happening all the time, even when I gave what I thought was a pretty average presentation. I actually was starting to feel embarrassed, so I went looking for a way to deflect the compliments.

Now when people compliment me after one of my talks, I ask them to reflect on it and concentrate on the content, not the delivery.

I ask them in return – what are two things that you will take back to your company?

This always makes them think. They generally take a breath, and reflect on what I have said.

Any good speaker should do the same, not just lap up the praise, but see if the content is something they can action straight away.

What I have found using this approach is that I then can more accurately understand what worked well, and what made them think, and apply this in future talks.

As a speaker looking to constantly improve, I don’t want to be told that it was a great speech, I want to see what content really connected with them.

As you go through your own speaking career, start asking your audience what they will take away with them?

I many ways, through this deeper feedback I actually learn much more from my audience than they learn from me.

Top tips to improve your content and delivery style each time

  1. Film each and every talk and review them afterwards in great detail to learn what worked and what didn’t. Read more about the kit I use to film all my talks in this post
  2. Ensure your Twitter name and event hashtag are at the bottom of all your slides – then if they want to provide any feedback or tweet one of your slides, your twitter handle is easy to find
  3. Get to the event as early as you can – attend the dinner the night before if there is one and ask delegates “what are you expecting from my talk tomorrow/this afternoon/this morning”. I remember after attending a drinks reception the night before I was due to speak at a conference and asking these questions I completely rewrote my presentation. As a result it perfectly hit the mark
  4. Leave enough time for questions at the end of your talk – to see if the presentation made them think
  5. Always stay after your talk to solicit feedback in the break or at a reception afterwards

Next time you speak, ask for feedback on your content from your audience – you may find you learn something new.

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About 

Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the fields of digital transformation, social business, and digital eminence. Andrew is a multiple TEDx and Keynote Speaker, and a former Global Managing Partner at IBM.