It’s common practice to get a second opinion for your health. And it’s normal to have someone else look over anything you write that you plan to send out. But when it comes to presentations, we often tend to keep those under lock and key, opting to trust our own instincts. But choosing to get input on our presentations is always wise. It can help us see problems with our content, broaden our perspectives, and reach a more diverse audience. So why do we neglect to get a second opinion on our presentations?

My Story

Let me share a quick story about when I decided to make getting a second opinion part of my presentation routine. I had been preparing a message for an upcoming event. It was a conference for teen girls and their mothers. Now, I have two teenage daughters of my own, and I’ve been teaching college for over 15 years. So I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on teenage girls. I was in the rehearsal stage, practicing my speech in front of the mirror in my bathroom like I always do. I had run through it a few times when my daughter Eleanor, who must have been listening from the living room, came in and said, “I don’t get the turtle part, Mom.”

Part of the speech included a story that Barbara Brown Taylor tells in her book Learning to Walk in the Dark. It’s the story of when she found a sea turtle on the beach who had gotten confused and crawled the wrong way. It was too far from the ocean to find its way back. She called the ranger who flipped it upside down, strapped it to his Jeep and pulled it, somewhat roughly, back to the ocean. She makes the observation that sometimes the things that turn us upside down and bring us discomfort or pain are actually in the process of saving us.

The Problem

The metaphor made perfect sense to me, but apparently I needed a second opinion because Eleanor didn’t get it. I had assumed that my teenage crowd would understand the metaphor right away. But here was my daughter wondering why I was talking about a turtle. My first instinct was to get defensive and say, “what do you mean it doesn’t make sense?” But her comment wasn’t an affront. It wasn’t an attack on my ability to write or communicate. It was a simple and curious observation. “I don’t get it, Mom.”

And in that moment, I remembered that my main job as a public speaker is to make sure my audience gets it. So I swallowed my defensiveness and pride and said, “would it help if I added this sentence at the end of the story? . . . The teenage years are a lot like being a sea turtle too far from home, flipped upside down, and being drug through rough sand by a noisy Jeep. It’s hard to tell what is trying to kill you and what is going to ultimately help get you back to where and who you need to be.”

She smiled. “Ohhhhh! Yep, I get it now.” My daughter’s second opinion had just made my content better.

Tips for Second Opinions

When we present or speak, we’ve got to remember that our main goal is to do everything we can to get to that moment when our audience is able to say,“Ohhhhh! Yep, I get it now.” One of the best ways to get there is to ask for input from people who see things differently than we do.

Here are some tips from Carolyn Kaufman Psy.D. for getting second opinions and taking feedback from others in stride:

  • Decide whether you’d have praise or growth
  • Remind yourself that taking feedback and criticism is tough
  • Avoid explaining why the critique is wrong
  • Don’t make excuses for why the changes don’t really need to be made
  • Only ask for feedback if you are honestly open to receiving it
  • Don’t enlist the help of someone who’s not willing to be honest with you

Getting a second opinion isn’t easy, but it can take your content and delivery to the next level. Are you brave enough to ask for a second opinion? You might hear things like, “you need to look up from your notes more” or “I was kind of bored during the ending” or “I don’t get the turtle part.” But those comments, as tough as they can be to hear, are making you a better speaker.

At Ethos3, presentations are our business. And we’re happy to provide a second opinion.


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