Getting the most from a speaking mentor or coach

by Derek Featherstone

In a mentoring relationship, it's too easy for someone to say "Can you give me feedback?" If you want to make it really worthwhile, work with a mentor on very specific areas of concern. Ask them the right questions, and encourage them to give you the detail you need to take action.

Many speakers–both new and experienced–work with mentors or coaches. In addition to running a business and speaking at conferences around the world, I'm also a fitness instructor. I teach Body Attack and RPM for Goodlife Fitness. In the last 4 years, I've been both a mentor for new instructors and been mentored by some pretty incredible people. Asking for and providing feedback that is useful and actionable is an art.

In fact I think you shouldn't ask for feedback.

You should ask for something more.

Ask something very specific. "I'm trying a few new examples today; can you watch how I present them and give me feedback on how appropriate they are and how well I present them?"

Don't ask "What did you think?"

Ask "Can you look for opportunities for me to improve the way that I'm framing the entire presentation? I'm not sure that I've got it quite right..."

Don't ask "How did I do?"

Ask "Can you give me three things that I can work on the next time I give this talk?"

The flip side, of course, is that when you're acting as the mentor, provide actionable feedback. Work with the person to address issues directly rather than speaking in vague generalities.

Be specific

Next time you're asking a mentor or coach about your speaking performance, be as specific as you can. Look to uncover actionable items for improvement.

Posted in: