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Watch and learn

I spent my weekend doing something I had been putting off for a while; I decided to watch myself performing my last couple of comedy performances. To get to this point, it took 10 days of mental and emotional preparation conducted behind fridge doors, devouring line after line of a block of Cadbury chocolate and shouting “I’m cleaning the fridge!” when asked what I was doing there for so long. It wasn’t far from the truth.

Finally, with my cowardice killed by calories, I put my ear plugs in and braced myself as I hit play on my iPhone. Cringeworthy as it may be, watching myself perform is second only to performing itself when it comes to improving as a comedian.

It is the same for presenting. So, every time you have a presentation or speech or even a media interview – hit record and reap the rewards.

Watch, watch and watch again

There are a few things you should look out for when you’re watching back a formal communication engagement like a presentation or media interview. Pause and rewind your way through, monitoring audience reactions, watching out for your body language and movement, listening to your content and where you may or may not have gotten stuck, analysing your positioning on the stage (if you’re on one) and your clothing. Don’t expect to take it all in in one simple viewing. Watch it multiple times until you’ve gotten all you can from the recording. Then share it with a trusted advisor or your communication coach – they will help you see things you can not.

Refine your content

Based on what I learn from watching one of my performances, I always rewrite or reconsider my material.

From a presenter’s perspective, you may only be delivering your material once – but that doesn’t matter – you can see how an audience responds to a narrative, a question or an anecdote that you may need to use again down the track.

If you’re on a roadshow or tour – edit away! Anything that didn’t resonate or was clunky or unnatural to present – get rid of it or rework it. Then present it again if you can and repeat the process until you get it right.

It’s the same process for media interviews, or Q&A sessions. If you get a question and you provide an answer that really nailed it – write it down. If the answer you gave really didn’t hit the mark, then you need to reconsider it and try the new answer again at the next opportunity.

Pay attention to your delivery

Watch closely for how you move and any mannerisms that might be distracting from the performance itself. Is there something holding you back or getting in the way? I noticed in one video that my big hair was getting in the way as I had to address two different sides of a very wide room. This meant some people couldn’t even see my face when I was on stage. And I didn’t realise it on the night – but I kept having to move my hair off my face which was annoying to me. I remember not feeling 100% comfortable, and that was obviously one of the reasons why.

Clothes matter

Dress first and foremost, for your own comfort. If you are new to or not comfortable presenting, then don’t choose the annual company conference to make a dramatic reveal of your new makeover. Go with something you feel confident and comfortable in so it’s one less thing taking up your mental space.

Did you make your point?

Go back to your presentation brief or objectives and ask yourself – did I achieve my goals? Did I get my messages across? If you have a comms or marketing executive in your organisation, they too will no doubt offer very valuable feedback here. If you’re asking yourself ‘why on earth would I need a brief or set goals?’ then you need to make an appointment with me, and fast.

Dust yourself off and go again

Even the best presenters (and comics!) have bad moments– and it will happen to you. Over time you’ll get better at managing those moments whilst performing which is why it’s important to just learn from it and move on. Don’t ruminate, don’t let it derail you and stick to your training and coaching. One bad moment, does not a bad presenter make!

On that note, I’ll leave you with these videos of two very successful people and master communicators, having very bad moments on stage.

Because I sure as hell ain’t sharing mine!

Teleprompter hell:

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