Few people quarrel with the general concept that feedback on a particular skill allows one to improve that skill. Yet even when we know where we can get feedback on our presentation effectiveness, we don't always know exactly what to do with it.
Here are some steps that will allow you to maximize the value of the feedback you receive.
- Gather feedback from as many sources and as frequently as you can. You can never have too much feedback, because ultimately it will be you who decides how much of it you will use.
- Ask for immediate feedback. When the presentation is still fresh in your mind, you can better integrate any feedback with the recent experience of 'doing' and this makes the feedback more actionable. According to this blog post from Psychology Today, "...timely feedback is a crucial part of developing habits and skills."
- Demand specificity. A broad comment like, "I loved your presentation" or "You were great", although ego-affirming isn't very useful. Press for specifics...What did you particularly like? How did you feel about my closing? How could I have made the slides clearer?
- Don't be defensive! Recognize that any constructive feedback is about your behavior/style/approach and how it was perceived by the audience, not about you personally. Sometimes it may be hard to hear negative comments about a presentation you've slaved over. But it is generally the negative or constructive feedback that is most valuable and allows you to make the most impactful improvements in your skills. Recognize that the feedback is offered sincerely and refer back to #1.
- Decide what feedback is useful to you and what you will incorporate. You may receive comments you either disagree with or are unable to act on. If you disagree, be sure to validate your opinion by asking other trusted sources, so you don't miss correcting something that may be a blindspot for you. In any event, it's better to have a lot of feedback to choose from rather than too little.
- Make notes and keep a file of all the feedback you receive so that you can easily access it. Date the feedback from each presentation to allow you to review progress over time.
- Choose only one or two things to work on at a time. If you find that the feedback suggests you have many areas to improve on, it can be overwhelming to tackle them all at once. Prioritize the feedback based on who gave it, how much you agree with it and how many times you've heard the same thing.
Search out feedback on a regular basis and embrace it. It will absolutely make you a better presenter.