Monday, January 14, 2013

Speaker's Remorse - The Strongest Editing Tool

Don't you love the feeling right after you finish a speech? 

The crowd claps, maybe even stands, you shake the hand of the emcee, walk off and smile and wave, both energized and relieved that you've done your best. What a rush! For about 30 seconds.


Speaker's Remorse. You start thinking about EVERYTHING you did wrong. What you left out, from words to gestures to stage movements, to that humor twist at the end which would have left your audience feeling even better! Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Then you start thinking about how what you DID say wasn't perfect - this part fell flat, that transition could have been better, and, ugh, why did I wear this outfit?

It happens to the best of us. Unless we've memorized and practiced and given the presentation hundreds of times - well, it can happen EVEN THEN.

Last Fall, I gave a short keynote in Ft. Collins for the District 26 Toastmaster Leadership training. It was a well-received speech that focused on my Mom unexpectedly becoming the leader in our family. I sat down, and immediately thought about three different parts of the speech:

1. I had left a couple of items out (not that anyone in the audience would know) about my mom's journey
2. The humor bit involving 2001 Toastmaster World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LaCroix (there was a cutout of him on stage with me) could be enhanced even WITHOUT the cutout to this particular audience
3. I could've shifted the force of the keynote from Win Anyway to Lead Anyway, and be more in tune with the tone of the event

Again - it was still well-received, but I had immediate changes to consider if I were to deliver this again.

Photo by Bradley Beck

Last weekend, I had the chance to deliver essentially the same address to in Denver for their version of the training event, and I implemented those changes, to great success. More laughs, more emotional connection, and more intensity with the Lead Anyway approach.

Even then, I sat down realizing there was a line I left out at the end with a key humor line - just lost to the moment. C'est la vie, no one noticed but me.

The next time you speak, and are faced with those moments right after you speak? Take notes, immediately. Send an email to yourself. Some of your best ideas, and best editing can come right after you speak. Go back and listen/watch the video you no doubt took of yourself. Transcribe it, and see where your mind goes when you speak LIVE.

Then give it again. I hear that the best speeches aren't written, but rewritten. True. It's also true that the best speeches aren't just given, they're re-given, particularly as soon as possible.

We are our own worst critics, most of the time. Don't internalize it and make yourself miserable - document it and use it to improve. Share YOUR Speaker's Remorse stories below - then go out and Speak....and Deliver.


  1. Hi Rich,
    In all the years I have been speaking in public, I have only delivered ONE "perfect speech" (meaning one in which I would not have changed something) and that one was conceived in the car on my way to speak. It was based on something that I had learned about the evening before which left me quite angry. My passion did the speaking--my mind was not involved. For me, at least, I over-think over-prepared speeches, and they are never quite what I expected of myself. I choose to love, accept and forgive myself anyway. :)

    1. Bruce - thanks for sharing your story. Sometimes passion can conquer all :)

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. RIch,

    I still remember the times at Metro Toastmasters in Salt Lake City where after one of us gave a speech, we could read what we missed on the other's face. We both knew where the lines "should have been". The best times were when one of us evaluated the other's speech and while we made an "evaluation sandwich" we also pointed out the exact parts we were thinking about in those first 30 seconds post speech.

    Hey, I finally made it back to a club here in Florida (Palm Harbor Toastmasters). I went two weeks ago for the first time. And wouldn't you know it, but the VPE made an announcement asking who was going to compete in the International contest. Confirming it was OK with the members that a new club member competed, I signed up. Old habits die hard!

    1. Tom - great to hear from you, glad to hear you're contest-bitten again. Salt Lake - in a lot of ways 'the good old days'! Glad to hear you are doing well. Stay in touch!

  3. Good post, Rich.

    As Dale Carnegie said, “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 had given.”

    Happy New Year and all the best for 2013!

    John Zimmer

  4. Rich,

    I couldn't agree more. We run a great public speaking club affiliated to toastmasters in London. We've got some incredible speakers, but some of them, when they get off the stage will admit they really could have done an even better job.

    But what they often forget to do, is actually respond to the feedback that they give themselves and others. It's all well and good to note that your speech could have been better, but the speakers who really make progress, the ones we see go to the national finals of public speaking and beyond, are those who take the time to act on their own self evaluations.

    1. I've been to St. Pauls TM - wish I'd been in London longer :)

      Thanks for checking in here at Speak & Deliver!

  5. Great article, Rich. I'm a public speaking coach myself, and this is one of the most common areas of concerns for our clients. You summed it up nicely... Don't be remorseful, document it and use it to better yourself for the future! Speaker's remorse is just part of the challenge of being a great public speaker. All you can do is be prepared, speak with confidence and conviction, and always focus on improvement.


    Ellis Strategies Cambridge



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