I was watching Alan Weiss recently on Periscope, and he was discussing self worth. One of his pieces of advice was to “learn to ignore unsolicited feedback”.
In a shocking twist, this made me think of Toastmasters.
As a speaker in Toastmasters, I get a lot of feedback. Every speech I give, which is on average 2-4 times per month. Lots of feedback, some of it expected, some of it unsolicited.
I also provide feedback to other speakers. Usually this comes in the form of a manual speech evaluation.
One trend I noticed about this is the amount of unsolicited feedback you can get (and give) when you’re in the Toastmasters environment.
Don’t get me wrong, one of the main reasons I stay in Toastmasters is the feedback. Most of the feedback I receive helps me improve both specific presentations and my general communication skills. And I’m confident that all (?) of my feedback to other speakers is, of course, awesome.
But what about the feedback we don’t need? I have 2 categories of feedback I usually ignore.
First, Inconsistent Advice. This is when one person tells you to change something, and another says to change it back. This happens quite often in contest speeches, when you’re getting feedback on the same speech from multiple audiences. For example, being told to change the opening of your speech, like adding or getting rid of a question. Or removing a line you think works, but one person tells you it doesn’t.
The important thing here is to look for consistency. If you’re giving a speech multiple times, look for similar advice over multiple audiences. When you get 10 different opinions from 9 different people, recognize that this may be as much about personal preference as it is best practice advice.
Second, Toastmaster Myths. “You should never use notes”, “Never thank the audience” and “You can’t repeat speeches” are pieces of advice I’ve learned to ignore, or at least temper. For instance, if I’m told my notes were distracting, I’ll look at how I used them and see if I can reduce that distraction. But when someone says “never use notes”, I know that I can ignore that advice.
Overall, I try to receive any feedback I get with the intention of using it, but understanding when to take the right advice and when to politely ignore the wrong advice can be important in our growth as speakers.