4 Tips for Providing Better Feedback to Speakers

Preparing to speak in a consequential moment is not a solo endeavor. No matter how skilled the speaker, an outside ear will help the presentation to land with impact.

Most speakers seek feedback near the end of their preparation process. The message has been planned. The supported data and stories have been collected. The structure has been set and the visuals have been drafted. Now is the time for someone to hear the talk and talk about them.

But if you are the one giving feedback on presentation style and delivery, how do you ensure that it is productive?

Through our services, we’ve helped hundreds of speakers through this process and have put a lot of thought into how to give feedback to a speaker. Below are four of our top tips and tricks for giving useful feedback to speakers.

1. Timing is Everything

The week before: This is a good time to make changes to the content. If something is missing or out of order, this is the moment to fix it.

The day before: Now is NOT the time to rearrange or rework the talk!!! The content is set. Now IS the perfect time to nail the style and delivery of the talk

Immediately after: Only good feedback. No “constructive feedback” that day. The speaker should leave the experience feeling good.

After the speaker has reviewed the recording of their talk: Now is the perfect time to debrief and go over what went well and what could be improved next time.

2. Ask Probing Questions

We always start a feedback session by asking the speaker, “how did it go?” So much comes out here. It never ceases to amaze me that, nine times out of 10, a client will already know what needs improving. In addition, asking clarifying questions like “what did you want me to take away from slide” or “how do you want me to feel about that story,” is a great way to begin a conversation. It allows for the speaker to share her thinking and opens the door to a collaboration on how to achieve those goals.

3. Opinions Come Last

Remember that you are an audience of one. You don’t represent every audience member. It’s important to recognize and acknowledge (out loud!) when the feedback you are giving is an opinion and not a fact. Give your opinion succinctly and allow the speaker to decide whether or not they would like to take action on it.

One final tip, and perhaps the most important:

4. Feedback Must Be Solicited

Seriously. If you have not been asked to give feedback, it’s best not to. If you’re not careful, you can undo a lot of work and shake the confidence of a speaker who is already nervous. If you are asked for feedback unexpectedly, keep it simple— stick to one thing that went well and one thing that would make the talk better.

Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to giving feedback that is understood, accepted, and actionable.


Need to Improve Your Presentation Skills? We Can Help.

Our clients come to us as individuals seeking to grow their own communication skills or as teams from organizations with similar goals. Many are looking for help in planning and preparing for a specific event — an analyst call, a keynote, a conference, RFP defense, and the like. Contact us, and let us know how we can support you.