What went well this year and what do you still need to improve? Here's how to create a communication success review to help boost your skills next year.
It's very nearly 2018!
New Year is often a time for looking forward. We start thinking about how we want to improve ourselves over the coming twelve months. We start new projects and set new life goals.
But, don't be so hasty! There is one thing you need to do before you set all those new resolutions... it's time to look back on 2017.
In this article, I'll explain how to perform a communication success review for 2017. Next week, I'll explain how to build upon this review to set your voice goals for 2018.
What is a Communication Success Review?
I know several people who conduct a personal "review of the year" before New Year arrives. My dad, for example, often locks himself away for a day or so and writes down everything he can remember about the year. I like the idea of this, but I need to be a bit more focused. I like my review to have a specific purpose.
A communication success review is basically an end of the year review but thinking specifically about times you have communicated effectively over the last year. It takes less time than a traditional end of year review and helps to build your communication skills.
In this case, "communication" refers to whichever set of skills you are personally trying to improve. For me, this would probably be public speaking. Over the past year I have been working hard to build on my existing public speaking skills so I can launch my speaking business in 2018. For you, communication could refer to podcasting, writing, presentation skills, etc.
Why is a Success Review Important?
The idea of a success review is to focus on the things you have done well throughout the year.
I don't know about you, but I often have a tendency to fixate on the things that went badly. I think back to my New Year's resolutions from 2017 and I berate myself for not achieving enough.
A success review prompts you to focus on your strengths instead of your so-called weaknesses. This is important because building on your existing strengths is the key to becoming a spectacular communicator.
Here are the top three benefits to having a communication success review:
- The review encourages you to remember specific instances when you have communicated effectively throughout the year. This is a good confidence booster and gives you specific skills to build upon in the following year.
- It encourages you to be realistic about your points for improvement. Instead of beating myself up saying "I'm too serious when I give a presentation. Why can't I be more entertaining?" the review helps to pinpoint specific skills to develop (e.g. for me, I want to develop my spontenaity and silliness on stage to become more entertaining and a less "serious" speaker. I plan to do this by exploring improv theatre).
- It helps you to identify a foundation of skills you can develop upon in the coming year. Personally, I have a tendency to jump into learning new skills and ditch all the skills I'd previously invested so much time in. The review encourages you to take stock of your existing strengths and build upon them.
The review should only take around 30 minutes to an hour to complete. You will come away from it with a list of great memories and a set of targeted communication skills to build on in the new year.
How to Create a Communication Success Review for 2017
The review will focus on specific "communication events" throughout the year (i.e. instances when you have used the set of skills you are interested in developing, such as recording a video, writing a report, giving a presentation, etc).
You will need a pen and paper (or some other method for writing down notes) and a calendar can also be helpful.
Let's get started!
1. Do a Quick Scan of the Year
The first step is to sit down with a calendar and quickly work your way through the year. When you remember a specific communication event, just note down a few words to remind yourself of the event. Then move on to the next one. At this stage, it's not helpful to get sidetracked by describing the event in too much detail.
For example, I might go through my 2017 calendar and note down all the presentation and public speaking events from my year, like "January Toastmaster area evaluation competition speech", "April Science Festival panel show", etc. I might also note down other types of communication events, like video coaching (e.g. "November gave video feedback to Richard on his presentation outline") which is another area of communication I have been developing this year.
2. Shortlist Your Top 5 to 10 Events
When you have gone through the entire year, pick between five or ten of the events. These should be ones which you feel went particularly well for some reason.
Perhaps audience members told you they really enjoyed your presentation, perhaps your vlog episode achieved an impressive number of hits, perhaps you did something new which you enjoyed and which pushed you out of your comfort zone (e.g. when I did my first stand-up comedy spot in August).
3. Elaborate On Your Successes
For each of the events on your shortlist, take a few minutes to describe what you feel was successful about the event. List three to five specific things which contributed to the success.
For example, I feel my stand-up comedy spot went well because:
- It was quite out of my comfort zone which means the adrenaline rush was great.
- The audience laughed at my jokes, which felt amazing.
- One audience member came up to me afterwards and said she really enjoyed my set and thought I was the best act on the bill.
Where possible, describe how each success made you feel.
4. Identify Your Points for Improvement
While the main purpose of this review is to focus on your successes, it is also important to identify areas where you can improve. For each of your events, write no more than three things which you feel you could have done better.
For example, for my stand-up set:
- Watching back the video afterwards, I realise I spoke faster than I would have liked, probably due to having more adrenaline than expected. I could have done a few relaxing voice exercises beforehand to counteract this effect.
- I didn't notice the signal from the MC telling me my time was almost up. I didn't go over time, because the set was the right length anyway, but I could have paid more attention to the signal.
Be specific about how you could have improved.
5. Pick Your Top 5 Successes
By the time you have elaborated on your 5 to 10 events, you should have between 15 and 50 successes written down. It's time to go back through all of them and pick your Top 5 successes for the year.
You might find that some of the successes are similar over several events. If so, feel free to combine them into a single success (e.g. "audience members on six occasions came up and told me they loved my speech")
Write out your Top 5 Successes on a piece of paper. If it's helpful, you could also stick it on the wall as a reminder of your existing strengths.
6. Pick Your Top 3 Points for Improvement
In a similar vein, go back through your points for improvement and pick out your Top 3. These will be your key points for improvement for the next year.
7. Share Your Success Review
Finally, share your successes with people! Share your Top 5 Successes with us in the comments below and/or to our Facebook page. Trust me, it will feel great!
Next week, I'll show how you can use this review to set achievable plans for 2018.