Getting Useful Feedback
Feedback is crucial to develop and improve your schools engagement activity, but sometimes it be easy to fall into the trap of kind, ego-boosting feeback, rather than seeking useful insights.
Keep in mind that there are various types of feedback. Andrew Dlugan provides some practical advice below:
1. Observe non-verbal feedback during your presentation.
There is a wealth of useful feedback staring right back at you every time you speak. For example:
- Does your audience look confused?
- You’re either speaking too fast, speaking at the wrong level, or lacking in clarity.
- Does your audience look bored?
- You’re not providing enough value, perhaps repeating something they already know.
- Does your audience look excited?
- Keep doing more of whatever it is you’re doing.
- Are they nodding their heads?
- They are accepting your message because they have experienced it.
- Are they leaving the room?
- That’s not good!
So, if this feedback is written on the faces of your audience members, how can you collect more of it? Improve your eye contact. The less time you spend looking in your notes, your slides, or the EXIT sign at the back of the room, the better chance you will have to perceive the feedback your audience is constantly sending to you.
2. Pay attention to questions during your presentation.
Each time you receive a question, ask yourself what it says about your presentation. For example:
- Is the question asking about topics on the periphery of yours, perhaps seeking more depth or breadth than you offer?
- Perhaps this is an opportunity to reshape your content, or add to your speaking portfolio.
- Does the question indicate confusion?
- Perhaps you need to rewind and clarify.
- Does the question indicate opposition to your ideas?
- Perhaps you need to add more persuasive elements.
Real-time feedback like this is raw, but offers a bounty of insights if you pay attention.
3. Gather intelligence before, after, or during breaks.
When I teach courses lasting several hours, some of the most useful feedback I receive is during the breaks. Audience members share thoughts that they were reluctant to share during the session itself (because they did not want to “disrupt” the course). I am frequently able to leverage this information after the break by saying something like “During the break, I was asked about… and so I’d like to clarify on the topic for a bit…”
Or, when I teach courses that span several days, the 15 minutes just prior to the start of each day (after the first) are a goldmine for feedback. I regularly gain insights about what worked well in previous sessions, or about topics where there is still confusion. During that time, I avoid fidgeting with technology or any other presentation materials so that I am “available” to receive this feedback.
4. Solicit feedback one-on-one.
“The quality of one-on-one feedback is superior to any other feedback you receive.”
Many people are reluctant to give you critical feedback in a group setting for a few reasons:
- They do not want to hurt your feelings.
- They do not want to risk embarrassment by admitting that they were confused.
- They are not confident in their critique of you, and don’t want to risk being “wrong”.
So, remove this barrier whenever possible, and follow up with an audience member privately. The quality of one-on-one feedback is superior to any other feedback you receive.
If your audience spans more than one demographic group, solicit feedback from at least one person in each group to ensure that you receive balanced information. For example, if your audience is a mix of “experts” and “novices”, seek feedback from one person in each group to get a well-rounded picture.
5. Create a custom feedback form.
Avoid generic, multiple-choice feedback forms. You’ve seen those, right? They are popular at conferences, and consist of a series of 5-10 questions, all on a single page, encouraging audience members to circle their choices, e.g.
What value did you receive from this session? (circle one)
1. Very Low — 2. Low — 3. Average — 4. High — 5. Very High — Undecided
The biggest weakness with multiple choice feedback forms is that they provide very little in the way of actionable feedback.
Instead, design a short, custom feedback form for your audience. Ask open-ended questions to solicit useful feedback about your strengths and weaknesses.
For example, to determine the elements which resonated the most with your audience, you might ask something like:
- What is the most valuable thing you learned during today’s session?
Conversely, to learn about elements of your presentation that need to be addressed (either by fixing them or eliminating them), you might ask:
- How could this session have been more valuable for you? What specific change(s) would you recommend that the speaker make?
I am often surprised by the responses to both of these questions. The lesson? Your strengths and weaknesses are not always what you believe them to be.
Andrew Dlugan’s full article ‘How to get Useful Feedback: A Speaker’s Guide’ can be accessed here – https://sixminutes.dlugan.com/feedback-speaker/