“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave.
The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”  
Dale Carnegie

This is a daunting thought for overachievers or anyone who strives to do their best at the front of the room!

Or not? You might be one of those people who is so relieved to be done with your talk and still have a pulse that you don’t bother to reflect on any of the three, and especially not on the speech you wish you gave.

But you should.

That third one – the speech you wish you gave – is the one that’s most valuable. To you. Your audience is likely fine. The one you gave is the one you practiced, augmented by shots of adrenaline and the energy (or lack thereof) in the room.

It’s the one you wish you gave, though, that is loaded with wisdom for your next turn at the podium. Don’t let 24 hours pass before you give it some thought and, instead of sighing and saying oh well, make some ‘notes to self’:

On Content

Did I open well and grab their attention right away? Would I open differently the next time?
Was every section relevant?
What about the length? Too long/too short?
Did I stray into too much detail in one section while the other sections were more succinct?
Did their questions reveal an interest that was different from the angle I prepared?
What did I wish I had included/excluded?
What are three things I could do to make this content more memorable?

On Delivery

Did I move around and use the floor, or did I stand in one place the whole time?
Did I look at my slides too much (or worse, read them)?
Did my voice have energy, convey passion or dedication to the material?
What about my eye contact in the room? Is that something I could have done better?
Was I able to move forward, toward the audience, giving them the sense that I wanted to be there?
Did I talk too fast? Should I have incorporated some pauses where the audience needed to digest the material?

Making ‘notes to self’ immediately after a talk is one of the simplest ways to help yourself improve as a speaker. Not only are you your own harshest critic, but because you are the source of your own feedback, you’ll understand it completely and you’ll be more motivated to correct it the next time around. The only tricky part is remembering to refer to your notes before you prepare to speak again.

Beth Levine