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Check Yourself: Videotaping Will Improve Your Performance

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
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As trainers, speakers, and teachers, we help others professionally develop. I would guess most of us also like to develop our own skills. Many resources are available for those in the professional development business, but there is one method that is underused: videotaping ourselves in action.

I teach my public speaking students that watching a video of yourself giving a speech is the best learning tool. Yet, in the 10-plus years that I have been teaching, speaking, and facilitating workshops, I have not practiced what I preach.

Recently, a friend of mine videotaped a workshop I gave at a professional organization meeting. Upon watching the video, I wished I had done so sooner and more often! Although I have received written evaluations about my presentation, nothing shed light on how and where I could have improved as watching myself.

Training and speaking are performance-based activities. Others in performance-based careers know the value of watching themselves in action; athletes, actors, and musicians often do so as part of their training. So why is this practice not a common part of our professional development as trainers and facilitators?

Here are a few important things I learned about myself from watching myself.

Nonverbal Communication

Did you know that nonverbal signals—posture, gestures, tone, volume, rate, inflection, facial expressions, and so forth—can communicate more of the message than words? It’s hard to hide your emotions and the truth because your nonverbal signals will give them away. If you are not being authentic, accurate, or confident, or you don’t fully believe the information you are presenting, it will be obvious to the audience no matter how you try to hide it.

My unconscious nonverbal habits were revealed when I watched video of myself. When I was trying to be funny but wasn’t confident in my comedy skills, I tended to lower my voice and mumble. When I asked groups to share after a discussion activity, everyone just quietly stared at me—but I had a head tilt, facial expression, and vocal inflection that showed my fear and lack of confidence.

I also noticed I tended to speak in a more monotone voice when going over theory-based information; it looked like I thought it was boring and wanted to get to the good stuff. (Think Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! Well, maybe not quite that bad.)

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The video was an eye-opener. I realized that not only anxiety, but other thoughts and emotions, really came across in my nonverbal expressions.

Effectiveness of Exercises and Activities

When you’re in the middle of debriefing and discussing the exercises and activities from a training experience, it’s hard to grasp and remember everything participants said and learned. Watching the video really helped with this.

For instance, after the discussion of one group activity, I realized most of the participants were not understanding all I hoped they would. Fortunately, I could pause the video to take careful note of their comments and thoughts. This was helpful in learning what I needed to add or clarify to improve the activity for next time.

Learning Outcomes

When you create a training presentation or workshop, you base your design on what you think people need to know and understand. You design how each unit flows into and complements other modules as well as what you think will best support learners’ needs, goals, and knowledge level. You choose activities, exercises, and discussion prompts that will help integrate information and accomplish specific learning outcomes.

Because that doesn’t always work as well as you plan, you can learn valuable information during the end-of-session takeaways. But there’s nothing like watching a video to know whether you were or weren’t successful at meeting all of your learning goals and home in on exactly where you need to improve.

When was the last time you videotaped yourself giving a presentation or facilitating a training?

About the Author

Megan Johnson is a leadership coach, trainer, consultant, and speaker who has a passion for helping people better understand themselves in order to communicate better with others and build better relationships, particularly at work and with teams. She is the founder and CEO of JMJ Communication Group based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Megan has more thanr 10 years experience in research and teaching of culture and communication in healthcare and business. She has conducted training courses and seminars on interpersonal, organizational, and team communication, as well as unconscious bias, conflict management and public speaking. She also has co-authored articles on communication in healthcare, organizational and intercultural communication, public speaking, as well as co-authored personal development books.

She earned her MA in organizational and intercultural communication from DePaul University in Chicago. And, she loves writing and performing music with her band, Scale Model.

3 Comments
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Amen. Keeping track of your performance has never been easier. Use peopleHum for your organization today and help your employees perform the best! www.peoplehum.com
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100% agree. Working with video is a gold mine for rich feedback and invaluable insights on the work we do as facilitators. Excellent article. Thank you.
Thanks Moe, yes!
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