Insights
Green check mark burst shape
Premium
Member Log In

I Hope I See You Never

How to give and get feedback—the right way.

8
minute read
Published on
July 1, 2024
Rehearsal groups are a vital resource for speakers who know how to ask for and receive feedback.

Performing puts you under expanded scrutiny. Whether on stage as a speaker or artist, in your company or organization as a leader, or on the field as an athlete—all eyes are on you. And sometimes those eyes are extremely critical. 

Just ask Sarah Paulson. 

Over the course of her acting career, she’s been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and eight Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one of each. 

But in a recent podcast, she shared an “outrageous” experience she had when performing at the Roundabout in the play Talley’s Folly

After the show, another actor, Trish Hawkins, comes backstage. Years earlier, she had performed the same role as Paulson. 

She looks Paulson up and down and goes: “Your dress is yellow. Mine was pink.”

But the story doesn’t end there. 

Two days later, Paulson receives an email—complete with six pages of comments, criticism, and feedback. Hawkins had shared pages and pages of notes of what she had done in the play, what she recommended, and how it should be done. 

Paulson’s response?

“Trish Hawkins, I have not forgotten it, and I hope to see you never.” 

Just say no. Protect your process. 

Whether you’re just starting out as a speaker or a veteran in the speaking world, you’ve probably had your own “I hope to see you never” moments. 

Fellow speakers, audience members, perhaps even your own friends or family often feel the need to share their opinions and suggestions for your speech, regardless of their lack of professional coaching skills or speaking expertise. 

Unless you are professionally or personally obligated to take someone’s feedback, you have every right in the world to say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” when it’s offered.

Because the truth is, anyone who wants to offer advice might not actually know what they’re talking about. 

Too often we let other people inside our head to “be polite” or out of some self-imposed sense of responsibility to hear people out. I don’t think you have to. 

You see, unskillful feedback, in addition to often being confusing or flat-out wrong, can be hurtful. Especially when you first walk off stage and feel most vulnerable. Even words  intended to be supportive can occasionally fall flat or even come off harsh and stabbing. 

Of course, I’m not suggesting closing yourself off from feedback; just make sure you have a red-velvet-rope policy that allows in only the thoughts of conscientious, caring people who actually know what they’re talking about and have your best interests in mind.  

The red-velvet-rope feedback policy 

You see, as the writer, creator, and performer of your speech, you are responsible for protecting your creative process. You must keep it safe from unsolicited feedback, unwelcome comments, and advice that could confuse, distract, or prevent you from achieving your speaking goals. 

So don’t just take feedback from anyone. In fact, we suggest you don’t take feedback from anybody you didn’t specifically ask for feedback from. Especially when developing a new speech or working on a new piece. 

If an audience member comes up to you and asks, “Can I give you some feedback?” you can say no. Just NO. If a fellow speaker comes up to you and asks, “Can I give you some feedback?” definitely say no. Pair it with a smile if you choose. If you feel the need to explain any more, you can say: 

“Right now I’m in the middle of a new creative process and I’m focused on developing my work with a director. So I’m limiting my feedback to theirs at the moment. Thank you though.” 

You could also say something like: “Yes, and I don’t have the time or attention at the moment to give it its due, so would you write it down so I can fully absorb it?” Then you can either read it later or throw it in the trash. But nine times out of ten, most people are too lazy to write it down and send it to you (unless they’re Trish Hawkins, in which case, beware). 

You see, most people don’t share their feedback with you to help you improve your speech. Instead, they do it to seem smarter or more important and to stroke their own ego. These are the people you should definitely say no to. 

Be disciplined. Protect your process. And don’t accept feedback from just anyone. 

Full Transcript

Read Full Transcript
X Mark icon
Don't
accept feedback from just anyone.
Check mark icon
Do
try to decipher why someone offers you feedback. Is it to feel important? Or do they truly want to help you improve your speech?
Black right arrow icon

Don’t give unsolicited feedback, ever.

 

Now, the inverse is also true. 

Nothing screams “amateur” quite like someone who goes up to another speaker and comments on their work. It’s obnoxious, and completely unnecessary. 

And while you might be an expert in your field, that doesn’t make you an expert in giving feedback. Being a speaker doesn’t make you a director of other speakers. That’s a specific skill set and a different craft.  

If you want to be a well-respected professional in this industry, don’t give unsolicited feedback. Stop doing it, today. Just don’t. Period. Full stop. 

If you really want to help, then be supportive. Share a moment you loved. Comment on what you learned from watching them work. Tell your colleagues they impress you, inspire you, make you feel brave, and make you think differently about the world. Find something you can truthfully compliment. 

Encourage your fellow speakers rather than correct them. After all, speakers get speakers work. You’ll find that praising others benefits you much more than giving in to that natural human urge to “help.” 

Our friend and HEROIC alumnus Michael Bungay Stanier wrote The Coaching Habit, where he speaks about the “advice monster.” He describes it as that urge in each of us to give advice because being helpful makes us feel good about ourselves. We want to help—but often we give advice to make ourselves feel good, at the cost of someone else’s learning experience.

Navigating feedback in the real world

Now, I’m not saying you should reject all types of feedback, all the time. 

One of the things that distinguishes the best athletes, the best professionals, and the best military leaders in the world is that they are great at taking feedback. They’re coachable. They want to know where they can improve and what they’re doing wrong.

But they don’t let just anyone give them feedback. They make sure they’re getting it from the right source. It’s not an easy line to walk but it will help your professional speaking career tremendously if you can navigate feedback in the real world. 

You need to be someone who can take feedback but knows who to ask for feedback from. 

How to ask for feedback (the right way) 

Feedback from the right person, at the right moment, done the right way, can give you just the insight you need to make changes and improve your speech efficiently and effectively. 

Here at HEROIC, our performance, voice, writing, and business faculty are all trained in the craft of giving specific feedback to speakers, authors, and thought leaders. Because it is a craft, and done correctly, it can transform your speech. 

But you won’t always have the privilege of getting professional feedback from world-class coaches and teachers. That’s why every professional speaker should learn how to ask for and interpret feedback from a close group of people they trust.

X Mark icon
Don't
ask “What did you think? Tell me everything. I can take it.”
Check mark icon
Do
ask very specific questions based on your rehearsal or performance goals.

Here’s how it works: First, invite a small group of people you trust to a rehearsal. Second, establish clear expectations for the audience. Next, ask focused questions based on your content, performance, and vocal goals. And finally, use the feedback to discover what areas need improvement and iteration. 

The audience is not there to coach you, and they should not offer advice like, "What if you did this?" or "What if you tried that?" or "I have an idea." That is not the feedback you are looking for. The role of the audience in this rehearsal situation is to answer the questions you ask in order to help you see what’s working and what needs improvement. 

To get the feedback you need, you must know what you’re working on. Every rehearsal has a purpose. The more specific your questions are, the more insight you’ll receive from the audience’s answers. 

For example, if you want to assess the effectiveness of your big idea or core message, you can ask: 

What was my big idea? If each audience member shares a different big idea, you know you need to go back and make your big idea much clearer and easier to understand. 

On a scale of 1-7, how much did you buy into my big idea? Depending on the feedback you receive, you might decide to add another story, more evidence or social proof, or use a different case study. 

It’s very helpful to give your observers the questions ahead of time so they know what to look for as you present. They’ll be able to take specific notes and focus specifically on the question at hand. 

Here are a few examples of other questions you can ask as you seek feedback to improve your speech:

  • What parts of my speech did you have a hard time following?
  • What lines, thoughts, or ideas stood out to you?
  • Please write down any time my movement was distracting or didn’t seem to align with the message.
  • What did you feel at this [specific] moment?
  • Did you have trouble following any of my logic? If so, where, specifically? 

Remember, you are not asking your audience how to fix your speech. You are learning the craft of stage performance and speech writing so you can fix it yourself—using controlled, specific feedback.

 

Focus on your speech

When you know how to ask for feedback correctly, you can get valuable insights you need to improve your speech and make it more transformational for your audience. 

Remember, it’s your responsibility to focus on your improvement. When you constantly seek to “help” other speakers by giving unsolicited feedback, instead of focusing on your craft, your speech, and your speaking business, you criticize others and damage your own creative process. 

Here at HEROIC, we are always performers, never critics. It is much easier to tear something down than to build something better in its place. So stop giving unsolicited feedback. Start encouraging and supporting your fellow speakers and applauding their creative decisions.

If you do, you might save yourself some embarrassment down the line. 

Remember Sarah Paulson? 

Well, she went on to win her first ever Tony Award for best performance by a leading actress in the award-winning Broadway play Appropriate, just a month ago. 

So don’t get triggered by unsolicited feedback. Keep iterating and focus on consistently upleveling your speech. 

As you do, you’ll protect your creative process and achieve your goals faster. You’ll feel more and more confident on every stage and deliver a message that’s more transformational, more impactful, and more moving. 

You’re on your way to becoming a true performer, so don’t let unsolicited feedback get in your way. 

X Mark icon
Don't
Check mark icon
Do
X Mark icon
Don't
Check mark icon
Do
X Mark icon
Don't
Check mark icon
Do
X Mark icon
Don't
Check mark icon
Do

|

Want to uplevel your speech?

CORE

|

The Breakthrough Experience

Better feedback fuels better speeches. Get access to trained, professional, world-class voice and performance coaches.
Learn more

Don’t give unsolicited feedback, ever.

 

Now, the inverse is also true. 

Nothing screams “amateur” quite like someone who goes up to another speaker and comments on their work. It’s obnoxious, and completely unnecessary. 

And while you might be an expert in your field, that doesn’t make you an expert in giving feedback. Being a speaker doesn’t make you a director of other speakers. That’s a specific skill set and a different craft.  

If you want to be a well-respected professional in this industry, don’t give unsolicited feedback. Stop doing it, today. Just don’t. Period. Full stop. 

If you really want to help, then be supportive. Share a moment you loved. Comment on what you learned from watching them work. Tell your colleagues they impress you, inspire you, make you feel brave, and make you think differently about the world. Find something you can truthfully compliment. 

Encourage your fellow speakers rather than correct them. After all, speakers get speakers work. You’ll find that praising others benefits you much more than giving in to that natural human urge to “help.” 

Our friend and HEROIC alumnus Michael Bungay Stanier wrote The Coaching Habit, where he speaks about the “advice monster.” He describes it as that urge in each of us to give advice because being helpful makes us feel good about ourselves. We want to help—but often we give advice to make ourselves feel good, at the cost of someone else’s learning experience.

Navigating feedback in the real world

Now, I’m not saying you should reject all types of feedback, all the time. 

One of the things that distinguishes the best athletes, the best professionals, and the best military leaders in the world is that they are great at taking feedback. They’re coachable. They want to know where they can improve and what they’re doing wrong.

But they don’t let just anyone give them feedback. They make sure they’re getting it from the right source. It’s not an easy line to walk but it will help your professional speaking career tremendously if you can navigate feedback in the real world. 

You need to be someone who can take feedback but knows who to ask for feedback from. 

How to ask for feedback (the right way) 

Feedback from the right person, at the right moment, done the right way, can give you just the insight you need to make changes and improve your speech efficiently and effectively. 

Here at HEROIC, our performance, voice, writing, and business faculty are all trained in the craft of giving specific feedback to speakers, authors, and thought leaders. Because it is a craft, and done correctly, it can transform your speech. 

But you won’t always have the privilege of getting professional feedback from world-class coaches and teachers. That’s why every professional speaker should learn how to ask for and interpret feedback from a close group of people they trust.

X Mark icon
Dont
ask “What did you think? Tell me everything. I can take it.”
Check mark icon
Do
ask very specific questions based on your rehearsal or performance goals.

Here’s how it works: First, invite a small group of people you trust to a rehearsal. Second, establish clear expectations for the audience. Next, ask focused questions based on your content, performance, and vocal goals. And finally, use the feedback to discover what areas need improvement and iteration. 

The audience is not there to coach you, and they should not offer advice like, "What if you did this?" or "What if you tried that?" or "I have an idea." That is not the feedback you are looking for. The role of the audience in this rehearsal situation is to answer the questions you ask in order to help you see what’s working and what needs improvement. 

To get the feedback you need, you must know what you’re working on. Every rehearsal has a purpose. The more specific your questions are, the more insight you’ll receive from the audience’s answers. 

For example, if you want to assess the effectiveness of your big idea or core message, you can ask: 

What was my big idea? If each audience member shares a different big idea, you know you need to go back and make your big idea much clearer and easier to understand. 

On a scale of 1-7, how much did you buy into my big idea? Depending on the feedback you receive, you might decide to add another story, more evidence or social proof, or use a different case study. 

It’s very helpful to give your observers the questions ahead of time so they know what to look for as you present. They’ll be able to take specific notes and focus specifically on the question at hand. 

Here are a few examples of other questions you can ask as you seek feedback to improve your speech:

  • What parts of my speech did you have a hard time following?
  • What lines, thoughts, or ideas stood out to you?
  • Please write down any time my movement was distracting or didn’t seem to align with the message.
  • What did you feel at this [specific] moment?
  • Did you have trouble following any of my logic? If so, where, specifically? 

Remember, you are not asking your audience how to fix your speech. You are learning the craft of stage performance and speech writing so you can fix it yourself—using controlled, specific feedback.

 

Focus on your speech

When you know how to ask for feedback correctly, you can get valuable insights you need to improve your speech and make it more transformational for your audience. 

Remember, it’s your responsibility to focus on your improvement. When you constantly seek to “help” other speakers by giving unsolicited feedback, instead of focusing on your craft, your speech, and your speaking business, you criticize others and damage your own creative process. 

Here at HEROIC, we are always performers, never critics. It is much easier to tear something down than to build something better in its place. So stop giving unsolicited feedback. Start encouraging and supporting your fellow speakers and applauding their creative decisions.

If you do, you might save yourself some embarrassment down the line. 

Remember Sarah Paulson? 

Well, she went on to win her first ever Tony Award for best performance by a leading actress in the award-winning Broadway play Appropriate, just a month ago. 

So don’t get triggered by unsolicited feedback. Keep iterating and focus on consistently upleveling your speech. 

As you do, you’ll protect your creative process and achieve your goals faster. You’ll feel more and more confident on every stage and deliver a message that’s more transformational, more impactful, and more moving. 

You’re on your way to becoming a true performer, so don’t let unsolicited feedback get in your way. 

X Mark icon
Don't
Check mark icon
Do
,
X Mark icon
Don't
Check mark icon
Do
X Mark icon
Don't
Check mark icon
Do
Education graduation cap black icon
Learn from
Michael

HEROIC

Speakers

Learn how to give speeches that transform how people think and perceive the world. We’ll teach you how to write, perform, and get booked.
Learn more
X Mark icon
Dont
Check mark icon
Do
Loading
Someone is typing...
Person icon
No Name
Set
Moderator
(Edited)
4 years ago
This is the actual comment. It's can be long or short. And must contain only text information.
Person profile icon with blue background
No Name
Set
2 years ago
Moderator
(Edited)
This is the actual comment. It's can be long or short. And must contain only text information.
Load More
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Load More