10 Ways to Evaluate Your Public Speaking

Evaluation stinks. Better said, we think it does. Taking intentional steps to evaluate our public speaking scares the life out of many of us.

I’ll never forget the first time someone evaluated my public speaking. It hurt. I felt bloodied and beaten down. Then I realized the gift I had just received.

I needed their feedback. Their evaluation kept me from confronting the same obstacles over and over.

evaluate your public speaking

Here are 10 ways to help you evaluate your public speaking

1) Watch a Video Recording

Beware! If you have never seen yourself on video, watch yourself soon or risk embarrassing and frequent mistakes.

The good news…after watching yourself on video, you will likely create a list of things to change. Make sure to tackle at least one of them.

2) Give a Few People An Evaluation Sheet (before speaking)

You need other people to evaluate your public speaking. Don’t ever believe otherwise. None of us see all our warts as clearly as others can.

3) Utilize a Test Audience (schedule feedback time immediately afterwards)

Exercise caution with test audience. Set them up poorly and you’ll come across as either arrogant or wasting their time (or both).

Test audiences provide a safe space to get constructive feedback before the main event. Real people experience real emotions and thoughts when they hear you speak in ways that a mirror can never deliver.

4) Put Your Speeches Online

Sharing examples or all your speeches online takes guts. If you know you haven’t delivered quality speeches, you may want to hold off on this one for now. But in our technology saturated world you can easily get feedback from people all over the world. This will help you evaluate your public speaking.

5) Invite a Mystery Shopper / Mystery Guest

When you invite a mystery shopper or guest evaluator to your speech, they see and hear your speech through a lens that no one else does. They come to evaluate your public speaking, not as a participant hoping to learn something (although they hopefully will).

I’ve found that my perspective changes when doing a mystery shopper consultation. I look for different things. I listen with an intent to help the speaker and the organization, not myself. I evaluate the audience and their response to the speaker. I think differently. I’m more of a participant observer than a participant alone.

6) Develop a Speaking Team

Speaking teams take professional speakers to the next level. The first time I heard a member of Dave Ramsey’s Speaker Team keynote an event, I found myself studying what makes their presentations so effective. I can’t help but think they push one another to hone their craft, deliver with excellence, and represent one another and their organization well.

But even if you never join a speaking team at a large organization, you can begin working with 1-2 other people in your organization. You can work to not only improve your speaking but to serve those with whom you serve. Ask a few colleagues if they have any upcoming speeches or presentations and practice together over lunch one day.

Thousands of professionals around the globe participate in public speaking groups like Toastmasters to get evaluations and tips from other speakers.

7) Live Polling

Hate technology? If so, live polling likely will frustrate you (unless you have someone on your team who can handle the technological logistics for you). Even if you avoid the technological route, you could try asking the audience to raise their hand, to respond to a question verbally, or to talk to you after your speech.

With the use of technology the options abound. Some speakers invite the audience to text a short code on their phone with their answer to a question. In a classroom setting, educators can direct students to online forms. More advanced options include mobile apps with built-in polling options for feedback. A quick Google search for any of these options will yield many resources that you could begin using within hours in some cases.

8) Ask Your Spouse or a Good Friend for Feedback

Having those close to you evaluate your public speaking can be very effective. My wife and friends give constructive feedback in ways that other people can’t. They see things that others don’t (they also miss things so don’t get all your feedback from family/friends…diversify your evaluation).

Receiving friendly feedback sometimes “softens the blow” because they care about you. However, the feedback can also hurt more and come at you more bluntly than professional colleagues. Either way, hear them, learn from them, and remember to treat evaluation as a gift.

9) Send a Brief Questionnaire about Past Messages/Speeches

The flurry of activity leading up to an event can make immediate evaluation difficult. Send out an email to attendees, the host organization, your colleagues or whoever you like to evaluate your public speaking. Immediate feedback helps you gauge “on the spot” impact but delayed feedback provides a gauge to the long-term impact.

When you craft your questionnaire you may want to involve others as to the best questions to ask. Since you will have spent much more time on the topic, they can help you clarify the essential questions. You don’t want to ask overly detailed questions that no one will remember. Clarify the goals of your evaluation and then craft questions that help you achieve them for yourself and your audience.

10) Attend a Speaking Conference Or Retain a Speaking Coach

Most of us have heard some iteration of the saying “the more people invest in a product, the greater their perceived and actual benefit.” The same holds true for the impact of evaluation on your speaking. Anyone can read a blog post or a book on public speaking. Few take it serious enough to solicit help from family/friends/colleagues, much less someone professionally trained to help them grow. Below you will find a few suggestions.

The more people invest in a product, the greater their perceived and actual benefit. Click To Tweet
  • The SCORRE conference: (by Ken Davis and Michael Hyatt) has received rave reviews in the past few years. Many of you may have heard of or read Hyatt’s best-selling book “Platform” or blog MichaelHyatt.com.
  • The Storyline Conference by Donald Miller: This conference helps anyone learn to speak, write, and generally tell their story. Try attending or reading some of their information to better evaluate your own communication.
  • Toastmasters: As I mentioned before, organizations like Toastmasters have many groups, activities, conferences etc where you can receive evaluation and training (For the record, I have no professional or business relationship with Toastmasters.) Feel free to suggest other organizations in the comments so that other speakers have more resources.
  • Coaching: Our world today seems to add 100,000 “coaches” a year (that’s an exaggeration but you get the point). Don’t google coaching and pick a random result. Find someone in your industry. Hire someone who has succeeded at what you want to do (But don’t try to live their life. Be yourself.) If you question the necessity of getting coaching, try asking yourself what the impact would be if your speaking never improved. On the positive side, what if your speaking consistently drew larger and larger audiences?

Don’t do all 10 of these at once. Pick one of them and get started evaluating yourself as a public speaker.

If you want to make significant progress in 2015 or 2016, get coaching to craft a plan for your growth as a public speaker.


This post is part of a series of posts on Public Speaking. Feel free to check out any post in the series.

1) Public Speaking Tips for Leaders
2) 10 Intentional Public Speaking Gestures
3) 10 Ways to Clarify Your Message As a Public Speaker
4) 5 Tips to Clarify Your Intended Result for Your Audience
5) 7 Ways to Begin Your Public Speech With a Bang
6) 7 Steps to Practice Beforehand as a Public Speaker
7) 10 Ways to Use Repetition in Public Speaking
8) 7 Step Process to Plan for Silence in Your Speaking
9) 5 Ways to Match the Message to a Mission
10) 10 Ways to Evaluate Your Public Speaking