When developing your presenting and public speaking skills, it helps to get feedback on your performance, but how can you do that when practising alone…?

My four year old has an imaginary friend. While my son seems perfectly happy, to me Mister Nobody is a terrifying creation (he doesn’t have a body so when he eats the “food just falls out of his neck!”). I suspect Mister Nobody’s true purpose (apart from giving me nightmares) is to be blamed for any misbehaviour my son doesn’t want to claim (“Who ate the biscuits?” “Mister Nobody and they fell out of his neck!”).

But I like Mister Nobody really. How could I not? My little boy has taken ideas from some of his favourite books and television shows (Mister Nobody is friends with the dogs from Paw Patrol) and spun them into a whole new character. It’s enough to make any storytelling coach proud.

All this talk of Mister Nobody made me think about perspectives, and how hard it can be to get a truly external view of our own skills. I encourage everyone I coach or teach to both practise their speeches or prepared remarks in a full-length mirror, in order to see their own body language and expressions, but the truth of it is that it’s incredibly tricky to see yourself as others see you. Our eyes and brains are constantly editing and filtering the world as we view it – even when you look at yourself in the mirror you won’t be seeing yourself as others see you – the idea in the Matrix of residual self image is an insidious reality, we never quite see things as they are, but as we wish them to be.

Which means it can be very hard to identify things like filler words and hesitations when you’re looking at yourself. They all happen unconsciously, so we may be entirely unaware of how often we’re saying “er” or “um” – and we may not notice it in the mirror either.

But there is one way you can be your own audience and get an accurate external view of your performance.

By recording yourself.

Cameras don’t come with filters – they are merciless. So when we use a camera, smartphone or tablet to record a video clip – we are seeing ourselves as an audience would see us.

I think this is one of the reasons why people often dislike watching footage or listening to audio clips of themselves – the recordings don’t show us as we expect to see ourselves and as a result feel wrong.

It can be uncomfortably horrible to watch, but there’s a lot of value in recording yourself. You will notice things in the recording that you’ve never spotted in the mirror. And noticing flaws is the first step towards smoothing them out.

Remember no one else has to see this footage. You’re not recording yourself to share it, but to learn from it. You can delete the file when you’re done – though if you can resist the temptation I would suggest simply archiving it somewhere (Dropbox is always good for this) because if you keep working on your presentation and delivery skills, having a few “before” files are a great way of seeing the progress you’ve made on your journey to confident presenting.

 

Photo by Tuur Tisseghem from Pexels

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