One of the wonders of the digital age is that video for speakers is now relatively cheap, easy, and of high quality. To be sure, there is still enormous art involved in getting good video for that speakers’ sizzle reel or for your website. But to get video for the purposes of review is no longer a high-cost item. Bad news for videographers; good news for speakers.

This easy availability does remove one excuse for reviewing your own performances, and it means that you should be doing that review on a regular basis.

And that gives rise to the question, what should you be looking for? So here are my 5 quick questions to ask yourself when reviewing your own videos.

1.Do you have any nervous tics, verbal or otherwise?

The first things to watch your video for are the obvious problems. Do you have an immobile face, thanks to adrenaline? Do you have happy feet, wandering all over the stage? Do you have a repetitive gesture that you use thanks to the clicker you’re holding? Are you squinting because of the bright lights so that you look like you’re confronting an unpleasant smell, not an audience of people to wow?

And what about the content? Did you forget a big chunk of the talk? Did you pace yourself badly so that you ran out of time? What are the obvious problems, in short, that show up when you watch yourself on video?

All too often we’re dimly aware of some issue when we’re speaking, such as nervously clutching our hands, for example, but our memories rarely match the reality the tape shows. We think we wandered a bit, but the video shows that we wandered constantly, and so on. Video will give you the unvarnished version of your performance, and you can learn a great deal from that.

2. Are you telling a coherent story?

The next aspect of your talk to check for is the coherence of the tale you’re telling. Coherence is both content and emotion; in other words, when you’re talking about something affecting, are you emotionally consistent with your message? Or are you thinking several steps ahead, already having moved on in your mind to the next part of the talk? The result of that is emotionally incoherent for the audience. It’s extremely difficult for an audience to understand a story that doesn’t have a clear emotional line that is consistent with the meaning of the story – and one that the speaker connects with, so that the audience can, too.

3. Do you connect with the audience?

One of the interesting things a video will reveal is how strong your connection is with the audience. Are you watching them to see how well they’re understanding what you’re saying? Are you asking them questions at various points of the talk – and then waiting for them to respond? Or do you answer your own questions almost immediately? The result is deadening for an audience. A review of the tape will show how engaged you are with the audience in front of you, because you’ll see the reflection of them in your face – or not.

4. Do you give the audience time to get it?

Video will also show if you’re racing through your talk to get done on time, or if you’re giving it time to breathe, letting the audience catch up, process what you’re saying, and file it away to make room for the next point. Speakers that rush don’t give their audiences any time to understand – they’re just trying to get done. But you haven’t communicated if the audience hasn’t got it.

5. Are you fully present with that audience?

To connect with an audience you need to be both emotionally present and vulnerable. Speakers used to be able to get away with a read speech – a speech that was an information dump. But our attention spans have shortened and our tolerance for inauthentic behavior has lessened, so you’d better give the audience something real and be ready to honestly share that with the audience in front of you. If you phone it in, they will know. And you will know.

There’s much to learn from a review of your own speaking, and it has never been easier to get good video. No more excuses; time to start the critique.




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