Speech competitions are the best developmental experiences for a speaker. The “stuff” you go through in preparing, delivering, and refining your talks will vastly improve your confidence and abilities. If you are a serious competitor then you are constantly seeking feedback. I remember being invited to speak at several clubs when I was progressing in the Tall Tales Contest. The feedback I got was useful except for one thing: I had trouble sorting through it all. One group said I moved around too much, another said I did not move around enough, a third said that I should tone down my energy (good luck on that one). I was extremely confused! So for those who are competing here are some tips that helped me sort through feedback. If you are not competing, then items 1,3, 4 and 5 still apply to any speaking enthusiast:
- Be true to your style. If a speech suggestion goes against the very core of your style then don’t use it. You won’t be comfortable and it will show on stage.
- Read the judging criteria. Grab a copy of the judges scorecard for competitions and make sure your speech aligns with them. Although this should be done regardless of feedback from colleagues, it can be used as an additional filter.
- You don’t have to change everything. We only have so much time in the day and some suggestions may be more important than others. Prioritize which suggestions are the ones that need to be made first.
- Make one change at a time. There will be several pieces of advice that could strengthen your speech. Don’t try and implement everything at once. Make one (maybe two) small changes and rehearse with those modifications until they feel natural. When you feel good about it, try infusing another one if you have time.
- Justify your choices. At the end of the day you know what works (or doesn’t) work for your speaking style. No matter what, have a reason beyond “I like to do it this way” when making a choice. Find the logic and purpose behind the wording, movement, or placement of a story/joke/anecdote etc.