He’s just asked for feedback on his presentation – what should I say?

Should we give people feedback on their presentations and if we do, how honest should we be?

imagesLet’s be honest, if we deliver a presentation we are not likely to get any feedback that is helpful from the majority of people in the audience.  If we say, ‘how did it go?’ the answer usually is  ‘fine, OK’ even if it wasn’t.  Not that people are being deliberately dishonest but :

1. They are glad it was you up there not them so are commenting on your bravery of standing up in the first place

2. They don’t want to upset you or offend you

3. They know it wasn’t brilliant but don’t know what ‘good looks like’ so can’t offer anything constructive to say. And secretly know that they would make the same mistakes.

I observed this happening recently.  Someone whose presentation was a curates egg (some bits good, some not so) was given feedback that was unhelpful and inaccurate e.g. thank you,that was great.

I guess our starting point is whether the person asks for feedback, wants it and will find it useful.

If they don’t ask for it, then should we give it?  In my opinion, if people want  feedback they will ask.  And we can offer to give them feedback if they want rather than forcing the comments down straightaway without checking first. If they say no thanks, then that if OK.

Sometimes people ask but don’t really want it.This is more difficult to judge and I always find it is helpful to ask them what specifically they want feedback on rather than drown them in a deluge of feedback.

And always, always, always feedback should be useful. If it won’t help them or they can’t do anything with it or it is destructive, then keep your thoughts to yourself. I am reminded of a scene from a very old video arts video comparing appraisals with annual medical check ups. The man on the groaning scales is told he is too short.  Feedback that may be ‘true’ but is useless in terms of him being able to do anything about it.  The doctor giving the feedback could say he is fat but again this don’t offer a solution for the future and risks putting the poor chap on the defensive.  If the doctor says the man is too heavy for his height, then he can make some decisions about this objective feedback and start to think about options of improvement.  So our feedback should be about what they person can do in the future…

Of course, this means that when we do give feedback we have to know what ‘good’ looks like.  So giving feedback is a great way of helping us reinforce for ourselves what behaviours we would like to see and hear. A great learning opportunity if ever there was one!

So, should we give feedback?   If it asked for, wanted and is useful, yes.  If not, then perhaps our solution is to be the role model and wait until people ask us how we do it!



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