The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback in Rehearsals

The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback in Rehearsals

The Perils of Over-Rehearsing

As a seasoned public speaker who’s delivered hundreds of keynotes all around the world, I have a unique perspective on the role of rehearsals in performance. You see, I’ve never actually rehearsed a speech – not once, not ever. I know, it might sound surprising or even unprofessional, given the common advice that one must practice their talk to perfection before taking the stage.

But here’s the thing – I’m not against rehearsing, per se. In fact, I’m constantly honing my craft, testing out new material, and getting feedback from trusted sources. The key difference is that I don’t subscribe to the notion of memorizing an entire speech and then robotically delivering it, word-for-word. That approach, in my experience, can often lead to a stilted, artificial performance that fails to connect with the audience on a genuine, human level.

You see, I firmly believe that the real rehearsal happens on stage, in front of a live audience. That’s where you get to feel the energy, read the room, and adapt your delivery in the moment. Sure, I may go over my opening lines in the shower or think through certain set pieces before stepping in front of the crowd, but I never try to completely lock down the entire presentation. There’s just too much room for improvisation, audience interaction, and happy accidents that can make a talk truly memorable.

The Importance of Tuning In

The way I see it, being overly rehearsed is like being an athlete who spends all their time doing drills and never actually playing the game. At a certain point, you need to trust your training and let your instincts take over. That’s what allows you to truly tune in to the audience and adjust your performance accordingly.

When you’re not shackled to a rigid script, you can pick up on the emotional cues and nonverbal feedback from your listeners. Are they leaning in, captivated by your story? Or do they look confused and disengaged? These are the kinds of subtle signals that can help you gauge the effectiveness of your message and make real-time corrections.

And let’s not forget the element of surprise – both for you and the audience. When you’re not locked into a preordained routine, you leave room for spontaneity and serendipity. Maybe you’ll land on a turn of phrase that elicits an unexpected burst of laughter. Or you’ll get inspired to weave in a fresh anecdote that perfectly illustrates your point. These kinds of unscripted moments are what make a performance truly memorable and engaging.

The Art of Receiving Feedback

Of course, the freedom of an unrehearsed approach doesn’t mean you can just wing it and hope for the best. Quite the contrary, regular practice and gathering feedback are essential to honing your skills and refining your material.

The key is to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement, where you’re constantly seeking out constructive input from trusted sources. This could be your coworkers, your friends, or even a dedicated “feedback crew” – a small group of people who have experience with public speaking and can provide valuable insights.

Now, I know what you might be thinking: “Feedback? Ugh, that sounds terrifying!” But hear me out. Receiving feedback doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking experience. In fact, it can be an incredibly valuable tool for growth, as long as you approach it with the right mindset.

The first step is to set clear expectations with your feedback crew. Let them know what kind of input you’re looking for, whether it’s on your overall delivery, the clarity of your message, or the effectiveness of your visual aids. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and that the feedback you receive is genuinely useful.

Navigating Sensitive Feedback

Of course, even with the best of intentions, feedback can sometimes be a little… well, harsh. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a critique that stung a little too much. But that’s where your emotional intelligence and communication skills come into play.

When faced with a critical comment, take a deep breath and remember that your feedback crew is there to help you, not to attack you. Respond with curiosity rather than defensiveness – ask for clarification, seek to understand the reasoning behind the feedback, and avoid getting caught up in the intensity of the moment.

And if you do receive a particularly blunt or hurtful comment, don’t be afraid to take a step back and process it on your own time. Reach out to a trusted friend or colleague to get a fresh perspective, and then circle back to the feedback crew when you’re ready to have a constructive dialogue.

Remember, the goal here is not to create a perfect, flawless performance – it’s to continually improve and hone your craft. And that process is rarely linear or easy. But by approaching feedback with an open mind and a willingness to grow, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a truly captivating and authentic public speaker.

Putting it All Together

So, what’s the takeaway here? Well, if you’re anything like me, you might want to reconsider the common wisdom around rehearsals and memorization. Instead of obsessing over perfecting every word and gesture, focus on building a deep well of knowledge and experience – one that you can draw from in the moment, allowing you to connect with your audience in a genuine and meaningful way.

And when it comes to feedback, remember that it’s a gift. Embrace it as an opportunity to grow, and approach it with a spirit of collaboration and mutual respect. After all, the ultimate goal is to create something truly special – not just for you, but for the entire audience.

So, the next time you step up to the mic, try to let go of the need for perfection and instead focus on being present, responsive, and in tune with your listeners. Who knows what magic might unfold? It’s all part of the art of giving and receiving feedback in rehearsals.

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