I believe that asking for and acting on objective feedback is the best way to improve your speaking skills. In our Excellence in Speaking Institute (ESI), we call this 20/20 feedback.

Honest, objective feedback helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can enhance the former and repair the latter. Also, looking for the strengths as well as the weaknesses helps make the feedback more balanced and feel less confrontational. You have to use your active listening skills to really hear and internalize the feedback

A course like ESI or ESI-Advanced gives you the best possible feedback. But if you need a quick dose, get a friend with a camcorder to videotape you doing a presentation or two. Then, together go through the videotape to determine your strengths and weaknesses from the checklist below.

- Rambling. Do you have a clear road map of where you are going and do you follow it?

- Monotone. Are you using vocal variety, varying your pitch, tone and volume to keep the presentation interesting?

- Topic Knowledge. Do you have a good grasp of the topic?

- Energy, Passion. Are you pumped up or pooped out?

- Non-Words. Um, do you, uh, throw in a lot of, you know, um, non-words?

- Eye Contact. Do you really look at and connect with the members of the audience?

- Body Language. Do you distract your audience by wandering, fidgeting or pacing?

- Appropriate Material. Do you use profanity or questionable humor?

- Preparation. When it's show time, are you ready for your close-up, or are you winging it?

Get feedback on these items and I guarantee that you will improve your presentation skills. Not only does 20/20 feedback work to help improve speaking skills, it works for companies, too.

Ty Boyd, CEO of Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems (, is in the Broadcast Hall of Fame and the Speakers Hall of Fame. He has taught presentation skills to Fortune 1000 executives in more than 40 countries. His Excellence In Speaking Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2005.

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