2 Types of Clients Who Benefit from Being Taped
Sometimes I think I’m the only speech coach who has a bias against videoing clients. But there are two types of clients I do video and whom I think benefit from being taped.
First, there are the accomplished speakers who want to fine tune their delivery. They have already mastered skills and strategies that I consider more important than delivery. They are confidently and comfortably themselves in front of an audience. They connect with their audiences in a way that wins their trust. And they consistently have a powerful message — an idea that has the ability to change people’s lives, expressed in just the right words. Letting them see themselves in action — videoing them and reviewing it with them sometimes in slow motion or in fast forward –can help them get even better.
Second, there are speakers who think they don’t need to improve but do. You can’t watch a video of yourself giving a speech — even, or especially, if you think you’re a great speaker — without seeing your flaws. So when I work with clients who have been referred to me but who think they don’t need help, I video them and let them see themselves in action. (I’ve only had to do this twice in all my years of coaching, by the way.) On both occasions the person relented. I’d like to say they became willing clients, but all I can say is they became less resistant.
3 Reasons Not to Video a Presentation
1. Taping makes you more self-conscious / less confident.
Can you watch a video of yourself giving a speech and not cringe? I can’t. And neither can most of the people I work with. Listening to our own voice on tape is painful enough. (Our voices always sound higher and less resonant on a recording.) But seeing and hearing ourselves can be unnerving.
The most common response to watching ourselves on tape – the dominant takeaway – is a version of “I suck.” Am I really that fat? Look at the stupid expression on my face. What am I doing with my hands? Why am I rocking back and forth on my feet? I’ll never wear that outfit again. Can you believe how many times I say “You know”?
And this experience usually isn’t helped by the person or by the people reviewing the tape with you. Experienced coaches try their best to help you see what you’re doing well, not just the “things you might want to work on.” But if you’re like most people, you’ll only hear and remember – and brood over– the negative.
It only gets worse if you’re taped in a class or a training session and made to review the tape along with everyone else. Your fellow participants usually don’t focus (or comment) on your strengths. They tend to zero right in on what doesn’t work. They’re not trying to be critical or negative. They think they’re being helpful. But they’re confirming or intensifying your self-appraisal: You suck.
So here’s the problem. Becoming more self-conscious tends to make you less confident. And becoming less confident tends to make you a less effective speaker.
It’s my job as a speech coach to build your confidence – not to tear it down — by giving you the tools, skills, and mindset to make you a more effective speaker.
2. Taping emphasizes externals.
Looking at yourself on tape giving a presentation only lets you observe — and focus on — externals: How you look and move and sound. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter: What you’re thinking and feeling and experiencing and wanting to accomplish.
But if you change what you’re doing on the outside without addressing what’s going on inside — what’s motivating or giving rise to your actions — any change you make is going to be, at best, temporary, and, at worst, artificial.
If you see yourself, for example, pinching your elbows to your sides while swinging your arms in and out (what I call “the flapping chicken”), you may work on not doing that. But doing so doesn’t address the deeper question. Why are you doing something in front of the audience that you don’t normally do? If you’re nervous, maybe you should focus on developing your confidence not on how you move your arms. Because when you’re at ease, you will tend to move more naturally. (Also, the more attention you give to a physical action, the less attention you’ll give to your audience or to your message.)
There’s usually a reason why you do what you’re doing. It may not be a great reason or a logical reason or a helpful reason, and you may not even be aware of what it is. But it’s your reason. And until you understand it and change it, you can’t change your actions. At least, not for the long haul.
3. Taping overvalues delivery.
OK, here’s where I part company with most speech coaches. I think delivery is one of the least important elements of a speech.
There are four elements of a great speech, according to Demosthenes: 1) the person of the speaker, 2) the event itself, 3) a compelling message, and 4) a masterful delivery.
Of course, delivery is important. Great ideas can wither and die because they’re poorly delivered. And stupid ideas get more attention than they deserve because they’re well delivered. So delivery is important. It’s just less important than other elements — elements that don’t get observed while reviewing a video.
Be authentically yourself and earn the right to speak through your experience, education, and character. Know and care about the audience — when and where and why they’re gathering and what they want from you. Craft and polish a message that is worthy of attention. If you do those things, I think your delivery will — for the most part — take care of itself.
Surely I’ve said enough to stir up some controversy. What do you think? I’m sure there are legitimate reasons to video a presentation and review it that I’ve overlooked. What are they? Are there other reasons not to video a presentation? Does delivery deserve more respect than I’m giving it?
Photo courtesy of thparkth at Flickr.