Here’s a subtle but helpful tip to get the audience on your side as you near the end of your presentation. In situations where you use an evaluation form, how you use it is important.
Two problems often crop up with the use of such forms. First (and, I daresay, we’ve all been guilty of this), there is a mad rush by audience members to dash off a few hasty comments, toss the form at one of the meeting organizers, and high-tail it out of the room. Second, many forms are not worth the paper on which they are printed. How to solve these problems and make yourself look like a hero in your audience’s eyes?
The first issue is one of timing. Many listeners become anxious that the presentation may run over time. They have other meetings to attend, duties back at the office, or family obligations coming up. I relieve that pressure by explaining that completing the evaluation form comes out of my time, not theirs. I’ll wrap things up five minutes before our scheduled end time so they’ll have plenty of time to share thoughts. Indicating that their ideas are important to my learning as a presenter and to improving performance before future audiences also helps. Plus, you get better data since the comments tend to be more thoughtful and less rushed (and you can read them more clearly if they’re not scribbled in a panicky scramble to leave the room).
Issue number two involves the quality of the forms. When attending someone else’s presentation, I don’t even bother with those forms that ask me to assign a 1-5 ranking to various aspects of the presentation. They are absolutely meaningless to anyone except a numbers cruncher with little interest in really learning about the value that everyone gained (or didn’t gain, as the case may be). I have no clue how a 4.9 differs from a 4.4. Those meaningless numbers tell me nothing constructive that I can use to improve myself.
Valuable feedback comes from audience comments. I don’t care how big the audience is. My bargain with my them is that I’ll read every comment, and I make it a point to tell them so.
Your turn. How do you rearrange your approach to evaluation forms in an effort to get the audience on your side?