If you facilitate employment workshops like I do, are you in the habit of getting feedback from your audience in order to improve how people receive what it is you deliver? If you don’t ask for such feedback, how else will you know if you’re message is getting through the way you intended it?
Most facilitators I’ve witnessed first-hand either don’t ask for feedback from their audiences at all; or they ask for feedback at the end of the session. The people who don’t ask for feedback in any form, aren’t really committed in my opinion to modifying their presentations, tweaking something that is important but was miscommunicated, or removing entirely something that just isn’t being understood.
When you don’t give groups the chance to provide you with feedback at all, you run the risk of not only missing an opportunity with the group at hand, but repeating again and again the same mistake with future groups; something to which you may be blissfully unaware.
Likewise, if you are in the habit of having a group evaluate the content and your delivery only at the end of your workshop, you can’t really make any adjustments for that particular group; your presentation has ended. I think too you run the risk of getting poor feedback at the end of a workshop because many people want to leave and give you surface feedback at best. So you may find they’ll check boxes on a form, but any sentences with meaningful feedback will be left blank.
Now yes it depends on the length of time you are spending together with the same people to some degree. People in a two or three week workshop are going to know you better and may feel they owe you something meaningful in return for your time, giving you more detailed feedback. While this is true when compared to a 2 hour workshop let’s say, getting feedback can really help you improve on your overall performance, technique and clarify any areas in your workshop where you are consistently murky.
To be an effective communicator, it’s a good idea to never lose your audience. You can have the most wonderful content out there, but if you fail to establish a connection with your audience, or lose it once you establish it, you’re going to be ineffective. Ever been to a workshop yourself where your brain wasn’t able to take in the content as much as you liked because the presenter failed to make some kind of an emotional connection with you? I went to a workshop myself years ago on the topic of LinkedIn. The presenter started off by telling us she was a social recluse and loved LinkedIn because she could use it to network without really meeting anyone at all in person. She spent the workshop avoiding eye contact with the audience 90% of her time, and I found it one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. I was distracted from the content because I was dumfounded at how poor a presenter she was.
Now on the other hand, I attended a workshop where the presenter was speaking right after a rather heavy luncheon. Anticipating that many in his audience would be sluggish, he used a technique that was cheap but extremely effective. He asked the audience a question in the first two minutes and when the first person volunteered an answer, he flicked them a dollar coin from his pocket. That got some sitting up. During his presentation he flicked out 7 dollar coins in total to the audience when they volunteered an answer. For seven dollars, this well –paid speaker had everyone sitting on the edge of their seat and hanging on every word. It was comical and magical to see everyone – myself included – totally engaged in the content of his presentation.
As for the timing of getting your feedback, the end of a presentation is a good time to get feedback because the audience can comment on everything they’ve experienced. However, for a workshop that lasted two or three weeks, it’s difficult for some people to remember all the content and how they experienced each segment. There is merit therefore in asking some groups for feedback all the way through your presentation. Consider therefore mini evaluations at the end of each day, or at a minimum at the mid-way point. The great thing about seeking out feedback in the middle of a presentation is that you have time to adjust your style by adding more group work for example if the people are really responding to that delivery method. If anything is fuzzy and unclear to most of your group, you can also go back and clarify things.
One question I like to ask my groups when I’ve got a couple of days left with them is whether they have anything in particular they are hoping I’ll get to before wrapping up. If they have some burning issue they hope I am going to cover, I can look at my intended content and see if there is a place I can add in what they want me to cover, or possibly remove something I was going to share, replacing it with their topic of need.
Workshop feedback is also good for gauging your own effectiveness. Being receptive to what you read can help you be a better presenter; and that helps everyone.