When was that last time you received unsolicited feedback? Did it hurt? Did you dismiss it or take it personally? The way we process all of the feedback we acquire is critical to whether we, our presentations, and our skills grow or shrink.
If you have been through some of my programs you know that I teach presenters to crave feedback. This is critical for our skills growth. When you are asking for feedback you usually have the right mindset to process it in a healthy way. When we get common feedback from several people we presented to, it should tell us something. Chances are it is proof of something good or something that deserves attention. The question is, what do we do with the rogue feedback?
Example #1: What a few participants said
Lately, I’ve been doing virtual keynotes with groups around the world. I’m converting some of my keynotes into virtual keynotes. It’s different and I adjust with each run through. Great presentations aren’t written; they are rewritten. I delivered one virtual keynote to a group in another country with over 800 attendees. It wasn’t perfect, but I was pretty happy with it. I got word from the event planner that she was thrilled. She even sent me a testimonial that said, “…people absolutely loved him (Darren)…I can confidently say that he played a vital role in making our event first class.” Sounds pretty good, huh? It was.
Then a week later I got the participant’s feedback. It was good, but there were a few that were direct and scathing. They included the terms “total sales pitch” and just trying to “sell himself.” Another comment implied there was little to no content. Ouch. Or is it?
Important to Remember:
- The event planner is your actual client, not the participants.
- People come from their own experience.
- People will find what they seek. (It’s even in The Bible)
- What % are the comments? (800 attended the event, the negative comments were only 5)
- Be honest with yourself, is there a little bit of truth?
Let’s go a little deeper into this example. What were these participants referring to? In my presentation I reveal 3 Secrets of delivering Unforgettable Presentations. The third secret is about the critical importance of qualified feedback. I’ve used the example of the feedback I gained when preparing my contest speech in 2001. I went to twenty-two clubs and secured feedback. Most clubs told me, “I was uncomfortable when you fell on the stage, you should get up sooner.” When I took this feedback to my coach, Mark Brown, he told me, “Darren our job is not to make the audience comfortable, but to make them uncomfortable so they will change. Stay down longer.”
Mark gave me the exact opposite advice as well-meaning presenters. Had I listened to the others and followed their advice it would have lessened my audience impact. I truly believe in the fact that we need a higher level of feedback to make our presentations more impactful. Is this self-serving? Yes, It is and it’s also very true. When I deliver I usually say, “Look, getting a qualified coach doesn’t have to be me or Mark, but you need to find a qualified coach!” So, my feedback givers must have not heard that. Or they chose to intentionally not listen. Seek and ye shall find.
Sometimes when delivering my virtual presentations, I waive my fee for some non-profit organizations. I like reminding people, “You know I usually earn $10,000 for a keynote, but am delivering this at no charge to your organization.” This is at the end of my content presentation. I then ask a question that I learned long ago at a seminar, “Have I earned the right to let the serious people know how they could learn more from me for 2 minutes?” Another phrase I learned was, “I created a special package for the people who want to learn more, may I share that?”
OK, now this example is about rogue feedback that was requested. It was solicited. The title of this article is about unsolicited feedback. This next example is about exactly that.
Example #2: The Event Recording
One of the bonuses about Zoom meetings is the ability to record your event. This is very cool because it allows you to capture the live event and offer to attendees to review and for others to experience the teachings as well. One of my favorite attributes of Zoom meetings is breakout rooms. We have been using them for years. They are critical to keeping virtual seat participants and to have a transformational experience. When we do live training workshops, at times, we break people into groups and have them work on an exercise together. With breakout rooms we can offer that same experience virtually. When done right, it is powerful.
Recently, one of our workshop participants had reviewed the previous replays and was disappointed that the recordings did not include any of the conversations that took place in the breakout room. It was just dead air for 5-10 minutes on the replay. As a people pleaser, I have to admit I took it personally for a moment. I was bummed out that I disappointed him. It just doesn’t record the breakout rooms, only the main session.
This was rogue feedback. He was right. I could edit out the 5-10 minutes of dead air in the recording, but that still leaves less than a full experience for the replay listeners. I had some choices to make. I could say, “Thank you” and let it go or I could call this participant and apologize. The right thing to do is to ask myself, “What is best for our participants?” When I asked myself that question, the choice became obvious. If I can solve this challenge our future replays would be more content-rich. This would also increase the likelihood that people would invest in other event replays. It would also increase the value of our brand. Clearly knowing this was a good decision and my next question was, “How do I make this happen?”
I found the way to do it and add value to people who invest in the future replays. It came from a rogue piece of feedback and, for that, I’m thankful. We need to be careful and not take things too personally. We need to ask the question, “Will this be better for future audiences?”
Feedback is critical to improvement. Remember though it is how you process it. Feedback is not defining you as a person. It is feedback on a moment in time delivering a specific presentation to a specific audience on a specific day. That’s all. If you are a people pleaser, step back and see if the insights you gain can allow you to adjust for future audiences. Make the changes and let go. Move on. In my Example 1, I did take inventory of what was said and processed it. I confirmed to myself that it was a tiny percentage and people are people. They will seek what they want. The event planner, my actual client, was thrilled. If people want to find flaws in what I do, they will! I won’t let them down. They will be in your presentations too.
As I learned from some of my mentors, “We need to be responsible to our audience, not for our audience.” We can’t make them learn, but we must set up the learning for those to absorb our perspective.
When you are attending a workshop online, ask yourself what are you seeking?
When you are a presenter, taking things too personally is not good. That can feel like an attack on who we are as opposed to the positive aspect of where we are going. Think forward and let go. Ask yourself, “Would this make it better for future audiences?”
Now, how will you now process feedback differently?