As a public speaker (and as a human being!), it’s normal and beneficial to continually learn and grow. I've always had a desire to get feedback in order to take steps to better myself in the future. What I didn't realise when I started this journey was that sometimes feedback can really hurt. So what’s the best way to collect feedback – and how can you find the gems in your feedback?
How to ask for feedback
My favourite way to collect feedback is through a short written form for participants to fill in. Over time, I have adapted the questions to make it easy for people to comment and provide valuable content without intense detail or significant investment. I ask them to rate overall content, the session as a whole, and the speaker. I then ask two further questions which require a sentence or two – what they enjoyed about session and what can be improved.
Ways to make the most of feedback
So what are my top tips for finding the gems and using feedback to improve what you do?
Request it in a way that works for you.
One of the things I learnt very quickly was how to request feedback in a way that works for me. Sometimes that is in the simplicity of language. Try asking for constructive feedback rather than constructive criticism, and asking for things that you did well and ways that you could improve rather than what they liked and didn’t like. It might be my own misinterpretation of the word but I find ‘criticism’ always starts from a negative standpoint – so start your feedback off positively.
Don't take it personally.
Think of feedback as a way to improve your business. Most people admire you having the courage to do such work and therefore want to see you succeed and do well. Try to see any feedback as coming from a place of helping to improve.
Relax before you read.
Because I'm often mentally and emotionally drained after a speaking engagement, I like to reward myself by doing something I enjoy. I can then unwind, clear my head, and prepare for the next project. Try reading feedback forms the day after your presentation, after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and feel refreshed. You’ll be able to process and evaluate the information in a much clearer way, and will be able to identify the useful bits that will help you improve.
Ask for names.
If people are willing to place feedback, they should be able to own it as well. When handing out feedback forms, be sure to leave a space at the bottom of the form for people to provide their name and contact details so that you know who to ask for more information. One suggestion I was given was to only read feedback forms where people are willing to sign their name to them. If there is any unfair, harsh criticism you can deal with it in two ways: firstly, if they chose to fill this in, you can contact them for further clarification. Secondly, if they chose to leave their details blank, you might as well disregard the feedback as there’s nothing further you can do about it.
Taking feedback personally
There are many critics in the world who hide behind the written word, whether on paper or online. The fact is most of them would never consider physically standing up, getting vulnerable, and face the possibility of being rejected in front of a group of people. Pain is so much easier to dole out than it is to receive. I’ve received a fantastic amount of positive feedback – but it’s usually the negative feedback that I remember.
That’s why it’s so important to see feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve – not as a personal attack. Remember that very few people can get up and engage in public speaking. Even fewer actually enjoy doing it. Many choose not to even try. The fact that you have shows that you are stepping up and daring to be different – so well done you!
In the wise words of Brené Brown, “We have to be willing to show up even when we don’t know the outcome. I’m going to live in the arena. I’m going to be brave with my life. I’m going to show up. I’m going to take chances, and if you’re brave with your life, if you choose to live in the arena, you’re going to get your ass kicked. You’re going to fall, you’re going to fail, you’re going to know heartbreak. Today, I choose courage over comfort.”
Show up, be seen, answer the call. Chat to me today if you want to talk about how I can help you or your people overcome your fears.