If you watch American football games on the weekend, you have no doubt heard the commentators discuss coaches and players “studying the film.” What they mean is that they review video of their own play as well as that of the competition. They will focus on small details, like where players line up and how they react to opponents’ moves. It helps them improve for the next week’s game.
Studying the film is not limited to athletes, however. We all make presentations of one form or another. We may be pitching a product or service, speaking at a conference, interviewing for a job, or leading a meeting for a non-profit we volunteer for.
So how do we study our game tapes when not on the athletic field?
Watch Video of Your Presentations
If you speak at a conference or other event these days, there’s a good chance someone will record it on video. Even if they don’t make it available publicly, ask if you can have a copy of your session to watch — most folks will accommodate the request. If you have never watched or listened to yourself, it can be difficult at first. You need to keep at it until you can focus on it in a more detached way.
Record Your Practice Sessions
If you are rehearsing a pitch or presentation, record it. The quality doesn’t matter as long as you are mostly in-frame and you can generally hear the audio.You can ask a friend or colleague to help, or you can just set up a camera on a tripod (or even on top of stacked boxes or other items).
What to Look For on Your Game Film
As you watch yourself on video or listen to audio of your talk, try to focus on the small details. Yes, the overall impression is important (as is the outcome), but even when a football player scores an acrobatic touchdown, there are things to learn from the tape.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Listen to your cadence. Are you speaking too fast or too slow? Are you emphasizing the right words and pausing in the right places? Have you minimized “ahs” and “ums” as much as possible?
- Watch your movements. Do your hand gestures and body language add to your presentation? Are you flailing your arms or pacing nervously? Or perhaps you are motionless as a statue. Do you use gestures to emphasize key points? Have you avoided pointing at the audience or making other motions that don’t have positive connotations?
- Pay attention to the audience. If this is a real session in front of a live audience, watch the video at least once with a focus on how the audience reacts. What lines make them laugh or applaud? How do you handle the audience response? If there’s Q&A, did you manage it effectively?
Every presentation has something that could be improved, so learn from your practice and experience, but don’t obsess over flaws. With a little studying, you’ll continue to improve.