How to evaluate your public speaking and public presentations

Without making an effort to constantly improve anything you do, including public speaking: you won’t. It’s that simple.

This article is about evaluating how well you performed, whilst remembering that you must be kind to yourself. Kind but objective and a little bit challenging. Although I tell my coaching clients to treat themselves kindly when they make judgements about their most recent public speaking engagement, I encourage them to strive constantly for improvement.

An interesting question! Especially since that is my major field of professional work. I have established endless monitoring and evaluation strategies in industry and in educational circles. Fundamentally, evaluation is about measuring the value or worth of an entity.

When you’re judging the worth or value of your presentations, the best place to start is with your audience. Ask them. That’s right. I’ve spent far too much of my life studying evaluation methodologies but in the end it comes down to something that simple.

Ask your audience for constructive feedback. Give them the opportunity to provide that feedback anonymously and give them some guidelines about the sort of feedback you need. I say ‘need’ because of course you cannot improve without feedback. Personally, I don’t go for what are sometimes called ‘happy sheets’. The set of questions given to groups asking them to rate, you, the content, pace, and the venue on a scale from 1 to 5.

If you need help devising more relevant evaluation questions, there’s plenty available on the Internet. Alternatively, write to me at and I’ll send you some guidelines.

I have used the ‘critical friend’ method in many instances in my career. That’s when you employ a skilled person whose opinion you value and trust to critique your performance. I certainly don’t mean that you’ll gain anything from your family and friends who usually just say : “you were fabulous darling”.

I’ve listed below a few other indicators about how well, or not-so-well your presentation went.

* Reaction from the audience – how many questions you generate, how many of your hand-outs they take; how much follow-up correspondence you receive.
* Positive, affirming feedback from the organisers
* You come away having gained more confidence to take on more complex speaking topics.
* Being able to adhere to the set time limit. Politicians are the worst offenders I’ve had to deal with on that criterion of worth. Once they get going, they have no shame about going five, ten or even fifteen minutes over their alloted time.
* Taking less time to achieve the same outcomes. You’ll know that your preparation skills have improved when you can prepare a twenty minute speech in less time than it took last time. As always, there’s an exception. If your topic is totally new, you may be back to basics with preparation time. However, you should be able to discern an improvement in the way you research your topic and in the way you pace your preparation.
* Being confident to aggressively market your skills with keynote speaker agencies. No longer will you be hiding your improved (even scintillating) public speaking skills under that bushel.

Perhaps the single most telling sign that you’re improving is that quantitative measure called the bottom line. That’s right. The more you improve, the more your reputation will grow and the more people will want to hire you.

For many of you, I know that your public speaking skills are being developed in a non-commercial setting. You simply want to feel more skilled and confident at staff meetings, PTA meetings and in social settings.

The way you’ll measure your improvement in that more informal setting is again via audience reaction. You’ll find that you’ll be spending far less of your valuable time preparing presentations for work: you’ll be much more efficient as you gain skills in note-making and speech organisation. You’ll also be spending far less time in that dreadful state of being constantly nervous and agitated.

As always, I’d love to hear from any of you who want to share with me the ways you measure how well you’re progressing. Write to me at To your continued happiness and success