How to be EvaluatedAug 14, 2023
Do you remember your 20’s?
If you’re in them now, don’t blink! They go so fast and they will disappear fast. Enjoy them.
But, if you’re like me and you’re a few years removed from them, I look back and I’m fond of my 20’s. College, my first full time job, meeting the woman of my dreams, getting married, having kids… And I leaned into the fact that I had been given a great gift: The gift of communication.
I have known since I was 11 years old that I loved to communicate, but in my 20’s is when it really came alive. In my 20’s is when I realized that I could really become GREAT at my craft.
Here’s the reality, speaking and communicating is an art form. It is a craft. It’s in the same family as painting and dancing and sculpting and singing and woodworking and welding and graphic design and photography. The list goes on and on. You can become better, stronger and more effective at this artform.
There are some days I really miss my 20’s. As I look back, it seemed like I had endless amounts of energy and faith. I would take giant risks. If I had a great idea, I acted on it. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, then I moved on. I really didn’t dwell on it or let it drag me down. I wish I had more of that now that I’m in my 40’s.
But, there is something I don’t miss about my 20’s. The size of my head.
Goodness, it was HUGE! If I went to a hat store, I’d never find a hat that fit! Well, not literally; I’m talking about my pride. I thought I was the greatest thing on the planet.
I’ll never forget the moment I realized what I could do with my gift of communication. I was speaking to a great group of students and everything was clicking. It was like I was pitching a perfect game or was conducting a beautiful symphony and the orchestra was in perfect harmony.
Those students were with me, hanging onto every word. When I told the funny story, the room lost it. We were all laughing. It was an amazing experience. Then, when I told an emotional story, I saw students lean in to listen. One student started to cry and then another and another. It was an amazing experience.
At that moment, I realized speaking is more than just talking. Speaking is a craft and an artform.
That experience backfired on me.
Well, remember what I said about my 20’s? My big head?
I started to let my communication skills get to my head and it almost ruined me. I thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. It was bad. My confidence soared into space.
In this season of over confidence and massive amounts of pride, something incredibly destructive happened to me. I was not open to nor did I seek out any critique. I did not ask anyone to evaluate my speaking skills. I honestly wasn’t all that interested. Yes, down deep I wanted to keep getting better. But, I think in my prideful state, I thought that I had arrived.
This is a very common story for many. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it had dire consequences for my development as a speaker.
My growth was stunted. Because I was the only person speaking into my growth, my perspective was very limited. I needed new thoughts and critique. I didn’t know it at the time, but I came to learn how important evaluation was to my growth.
My perspective was limited. Not having the thoughts of someone a few years ahead of me really limited my point of view. All I could see was what I could imagine. Again, not horrible, but it was limiting. I needed someone who had already experienced what I did to give me a bigger vision for what could be.
My opportunities were smaller. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved every single speaking opportunity I was given. But, because I wasn’t asking for a veteran speaker’s advice and wisdom, my speaking opportunities pretty much continued to all look the same. In my pride and inexperience, I kept looking for the same kinds of events and I wasn’t dreaming about larger opportunities and stages.
My world shrank. I would ask my wife, but that’s about it. Because I choose to not ask more experienced and seasoned speakers for their thoughts and evaluation, the size of my world just got smaller and smaller.
One of my favorite speaking books of all time is ‘Secrets of Dynamic Communication’ by Ken Davis. Interestingly enough, Ken is also in my top five favorite speakers as well. I found out that Ken hosted a speaking conference in the mountains of Denver and I had to attend. I could not believe how excited I was and I couldn’t wait to get there. Secretly and very selfishly down deep, I was thinking about how good it was going to feel being validated that I was a very good speaker.
The conference was unique.
First off, it was in an incredible location. When you wake up at a conference and you’re staring at the mountains, it’s just amazing. Second, you’re surrounded by leaders who care just as much about speaking and communicating as you do. Third, it was an intimate gathering and that meant that Ken was personally talking to the attendees. Fourth, for the most part, everyone was very good at speaking. Very good.
What also made this conference unique was that Ken taught most of the main sessions and then we broke up into smaller groups to hone our craft. Every small group had a coach and the coach was personally trained by Ken. Our objective in the small group was to create and present a talk. Then, we were evaluated by our peers and our coach. That was honestly the first time I was truly evaluated by communicators who were on my level or better. It was both awesome and incredibly nerve racking.
Everything changed for me up in those mountains.
After the first coaching session, I could feel my pride slipping away. Maybe it was the lack of oxygen and the elevation. Or, maybe it was the reality of what I was experiencing. I was not the greatest thing since sliced bread. My speaking was good, but I had such a long way to go.
Those four days in the mountains literally changed everything for me. I learned how important it was to seek out more experienced speakers and get their critique, their evaluation and learn from them.
Here are 6 steps on how to be evaluated:
- Do the internal work to prepare yourself for the critique and evaluation that will be coming your way. Remind yourself that this is a necessary and important process for your growth.
- Write a list of questions you want to ask a more experienced speaker. One of the best things you can do is be prepared before you ask someone to evaluate you. So, think through the questions you want to know. Questions like:
- Did I seem prepared?
- Was I comfortable on stage?
- Did I create any ongoing distractions?
- Was my content organized?
- Did I present in a way that caused my audience to lean in?
- Was my call to action focused and clear?
This is your opportunity to really get better at your craft. I’ve found most often that I’m to blame for not getting better. If you’ve ever struggled with your pride and being the captain of your own universe like I did, you can now change it. Once you get over yourself and you can move forward and really hone your craft.
By Jason Raitz - Founder & President, Speak with People
Jason not only loves to speak, but also is known for his love of Tom Brady, Hootie and the Blowfish, Chick fil A, and Ted Lasso.