How do you improve as a public speaker without a coach like me?  I get that query from people who don’t have the budget to work with a coach, or who perhaps are inveterate do-it-yourselfers and can’t take anyone else’s advice.

Rehearsal and practice are the most reliable means of improvement over the long run, but you also need feedback, because without it you’re in danger of repeating your mistakes and bad habits.

The good news is that technology – as always, these days – provides a handy answer.  With the advent of cheap video cameras like the flip cam you can video yourself and review the results.

But what should you look for?  Most people hate to watch themselves on video, so how can you make that painful experience worthwhile?

The answer is to watch yourself 3 times for 3 different things.

First, watch yourself with the sound off.  This idea may surprise you, but the secret to successful self-coaching is to look not at yourself in your amazing entirety, but to isolate certain aspects of your performance.  That way, you’ll be more likely to view yourself with a modicum of objectivity.

So turn the sound off, and ask yourself 3 questions.  Number one, focus on your posture and ask yourself, do I look confident?  Do I take the stage with authority, or do I just occupy space?

Then, watch your gestures.  Do they look defensive, or open?  Do I clutch my hands nervously in front of my midriff, or do I gesture strongly toward the audience?

Last of all, watch your movement.  Do I wander aimlessly, or do I move toward the audience when I’m making points?  Do I spend all the time focused on the screen or my computer, or do I focus on the audience?

Second, listen to your voice.   For this round, look away from the screen (as tempting as it may be to watch yourself) and instead just listen to the sound.  How does your voice strike you?  Is it confident, or does it constantly rise in pitch as if asking questions all the time?  Do you pause for effect, or do you fill every available instant with sound?  And what about those verbal, uh, tics?

Third, watch – and listen – to the whole thing.   Last of all, watch yourself with the sound on, but focus as much as possible on how the audience is reacting.  Are they getting it?  Are they laughing at your jokes?  Do they seem attentive?

And are you responding to the audience, or are you just droning on no matter what the audience is doing?

You can manage this viewing even better if you have a second video camera set up and trained on the audience.

In the end, the success of a presentation is measured by the audience’s response.  The only reason to give a speech is to change the world, and the only way to change the world is to change the audience in front of you.  Coach yourself to increase your power in front of your fellow human beings – and increase your likelihood of changing the world.




  1. Nick, thanks for summarizing these powerful tips for self-coaching. I’ve tried your three step review process and can’t believe how quickly my speeches get better and better. It was a little painful to watch at first, but after i did it a couple times i could quickly spot the actions that detract from my message. More great advice from Dr. Nick on how to give our speeches and change the world!

  2. As Ken Blanchard said: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”. I do record myself but I haven’t tried to analyze my speeches this way. Will give it a try. Thanks for the idea Nick.

  3. Great ideas, Nick! Plus, many people wouldn’t even need a “cheap video camera” as phones, tablets and computers often have cameras/webcams built right in.

    Although, it can be painful to watch yourself on video, you can see things you never really noticed. I’m a presentation coach, and always bring my iPad along with me when I meet with a client, if only to record them for even 2 minutes, so they can see themselves. I also wrote a book, Cat Got Your Tongue? (on presentation skills, in which I have a short chapter on self-evaluation. I actually suggest 4 viewings! With the first viewing just to get over the shock of watching yourself on video! 🙂

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