Public Speaking – How to Recognize and Reject Unhelpful Feedback

Taking the wrong feedback to heart can actually make a good speech a bad one.

An outside perspective on your presentation or public speaking skills is often the best way to discover where you can improve your content or delivery. However, ask yourself: “Is this person giving their advice truly qualified to help me? Does this person have my best interests at heart? Am I asking for their input, or do they have their own motivation to give it to me?” Sometimes unsolicited feedback says much more about the giver than the recipient. My friend and fellow presentation skills expert, Darren LaCroix, explains how to recognize and avoid feedback that can harm, rather than help, your public speaking and presentations.

“Authentic” Feedback?
by Darren LaCroix

Have you ever watched a presentation, and noticed that something just didn’t seem authentic? Ever received feedback from someone that sounded good, made logical sense, but just felt awkward when you delivered it?

I’ve known many people over the years who have been coached or taken to heart coaching advice from unqualified coaches. People mean well when they give you “Here’s what you should do…” feedback. What they’re really saying to you is, “Here’s what I would do, if I were doing that presentation.” That doesn’t mean you should do it!

I’ve seen people who were coached by award-winning speakers, and it was very obvious who coached them. Why? Because that coach put their “style” on the person they were trying to help.

Patricia Fripp and Darren La Croix with Speech Coaching Camp Coachee
Patricia Fripp and Darren La Croix with Speech Coaching Camp Coachee

When Patricia Fripp and I team up for our Get Coached to Speak Champ Camps, we work with speakers to help them discover their own personal stories and speaking styles. A very common question heard by our Coachees is, “How would you say that?” We make a lot of suggestions, but we always emphasize to the speakers the importance of putting those ideas into their own words.

There are many qualified coaches who have never won the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking – and similarly, there are some winners who, though they may be great speakers, are not experienced as coaches. It’s just not where they choose to spend there time, energy, and effort. In other words, it’s one skill to speak – and it’s yet another to coach.

What is “authentic” feedback? It’s not truth from the person giving the feedback. Rather, it’s feedback that should be incorporated into the speech because it is “authentic” to the presenter.

The challenge for people being coached is to differentiate between:

1) “I’m uncomfortable because I’m making a change to my presentation.”

2) “I’m uncomfortable because delivering these words, or delivering them in this manner, are not true to who I am or what I believe.”

Sometimes we can only discover this after giving the speech several times in front of a live audience (or even one-on-one). The more we deliver a speech to a live audience, the more we internalize it. Throughout this process, we’ll experience feelings of “that’s a perfect fit” or “that just doesn’t feel right.”  We need to pay attention to these feelings. Trust your feelings. There’s a reason for them.

In researching quotes related to this topic, I laughed out loud when I came across this one: “Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on.” – Winston Churchill

Taking the wrong feedback to heart can actually make a good speech a bad one, Simon Bucknall, an award-winning speaker from the UK, posted this truth to my blog: When I went to the World Championship of Public Speaking finals in Phoenix in 2007, I made the mistake of incorporating some strongly-held ‘coaching’ feedback from a less-experienced speaker. In hindsight, watching the video, it wrecked the speech because at key moments during the speech, I ceased to be ‘me.'” Thanks for your honesty Simon… You rock! That’s a lesson to all of us.

If we can’t connect with our own truths, why should our audience allow us to connect with them? They won’t. Trust me.

Darren LaCroix & Patricia Fripp
Darren LaCroix & Patricia Fripp

Be authentic. Accept improvement feedback only if it is congruous with who you are and your own beliefs.

Thank you Darren!

Fripp Virtual TrainingAs a speech coach, I work with executives, sales teams, and even high-fee professional speakers to transform their presentations, both in content and delivery. The secrets and strategies I share with my coaching clients are now available 24/7, through Fripp Virtual Training. Transform your presentations easily, conveniently, and quickly:

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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.