Receiving Presentation Feedback — Some of the Ins and Outs

As a speaker, I want to know how I am doing. However, I think that asking for and receiving feedback can be one of the hardest parts of working on our skills that exists.

Oftentimes, when we have given a presentation, members of the audience rush up for one of the following reasons:

  • To tell us how much they enjoyed and gained from our presentation.
  • To ask a question about something we addressed or didn’t address.
  • To tell us about a part of our presentation or something we did that they particularly liked or
  • To tell us something we did incorrectly, left out or were mistaken about.

All of the above types of feedback are important, not only because they make us feel good or bad, but also because they can show us what areas of our speaking are strong and can be used to our advantage and what areas we need to examine and work on. We must ask ourselves, however, if we can honestly agree with the feedback and then if the suggestions are feasible.

We should never try to change so much that we become uncomfortable or not ourselves. We do need to maintain our uniqueness, even if it “ruffles a few feathers.”

How about the evaluation sheets that audience members are often asked to fill out?

  • Other presenters and I have mixed emotions about these kinds of evaluations.
  • First of all, let me say that if we receive 100 great evaluations and two that are poor and/or degrading evaluations, we tend to focus on the two (it is human nature).
  • I know speakers that throw a whole stack of evaluations in the waste basket without even looking at them. They feel that most of the time, the sheets are destructive and useless.
  • My advice is to take what you feel is constructive and worth changing (usually a technique or skill), but forget what attacks you as a person (your character, style or uniqueness).
  • I find that if the same comment is repeated often, this is something that I should work on improving.

What are other ways to receive feedback? I often mention Toastmasters. It doesn’t matter what level of speaking we have achieved, we will receive helpful evaluations on a regular basis if we join a Toastmasters club. Every speech we give will have an evaluator assigned. Just be sure to tell him or her what areas to focus on, and how tough you want your evaluation to be. You will also learn a huge amount by doing evaluations yourself. There are also advanced clubs available where you will have the opportunity to work at a more intense level with tougher evaluations.

When should we give feedback? I would never give any kind of critical feedback, unless asked to, and I also hesitate to give feedback to some others who ask for it. These are the people who do not really want to follow any kind of advice and will also take the defensive and argue with you about your feedback. I feel that I am not helping them and am only gaining an enemy for the time and effort expended.