People who give speeches and presentations need feedback in order to improve.
I’ve been a public speaker for 20 years and fortunately, there’s no shortage of feedback from my audiences.
In fact, those of us who give keynote speeches and presentations get evaluated more than any profession other than “celebrity occupations.” Tweet This
The reason for all these evals? Conference chairs, meeting planners and Human Resource executives are in the habit of conducting audience surveys after a speaker does his thing.
The idea is to find out how the speaker did and then disseminate the data so everyone can learn from what happened and do an even better job the next time around.
The critiques range from helpful to useless. My office receives thoughtful commentary as well as off-the-cuff feedback. But much of the feedback is just plain strange. I’ve talked with other speakers who receive similar evaluation results.
I think all of the commentary is well-intended. A small percentage of the comments are thoughtful and display real insight.
But evaluations are completed in a rather “uncontrolled environment.” Some are completed as the audience member is in a hurry to exit the room. Some of the evals are completed days or even weeks after the presentation.
My speaker buddies report that much of the feedback they receive is off topic and related to the speaker’s hairstyle or the outfit worn for the speech.
The comments come to us in various ways such as source documents–the evaluations themselves, individual emails, and even phone calls.
Of course, everything shows up online these days. We read about ourselves in newspaper reviews, which are normally quite objective and blog posts, most of which do not cater to traditional journalistic standards.
Speakers get called out on social media big time, both in on public pages and in private messages.
Coping with negative feedback
Speakers tend to have pretty out-size egos. I think most of us would prefer unconditional approval all of the time. But that’s just not realistic.
On the other hand, freedom of expression, while a noble theory, is often mean spirited and even hateful.
It’s all to easy to criticize presenters from the comfort of the audience. There is little art or skill to being a “Monday morning quarterback.”
Theodore Roosevelt, a former U.S. President and a prolific public speaker, once said, “It’s not the critic who counts. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena.”
In the final analysis, criticism is what happens when you get self-discovery with help.
Feedback can be entertaining
Organizers took a tip from me and included this question in the evaluation form: “What one word best describes this event?”
The feedback included words such as “amazing, educational, empowering, entertaining, exceptional, inspirational, life-changing, motivational, outstanding, and . . . phenominal [sic].”
The event planners got a kick out of the misspelling and took “phenominal” to mean “phenomenal,” a complimentary evaluation, to be sure!
At a follow up meeting, where yours truly was evaluated yet again, the event’s organizers had a good laugh as they jokingly referred to my paycheck as “fee nominal.”