I have written recently about the lengths to which a presenter should go to obtain specific, timely, usable feedback. The most critical source of that feedback is, of course, the audience. Yet what if the audience isn't cooperating?
I'm beginning to think that business audiences and presenters are in collusion. Theoretically there should be checks and balances between these two entities, much like there are between buyer and seller or the executive branch and the legislative branch.
Audiences should be the watchdog for the presenter, alertly evaluating whether or not they're getting value and their needs are being met. And ready to provide constructive feedback if that's not happening. But too, too frequently I see audiences providing at least adequate, if not highly positive, feedback to crummy presenters.
SHOULDN'T WE RAISE THE BAR?
If we keep telling presenters they're OK, how will we ever encourage them to stop reading PowerPoint slides, to rehearse their presentation before delivering it, to incorporate examples and stories to help us understand better, to stop saying "you know" every 5 seconds, to use simple words instead of jargon, to....? Those 3s, 4s and 5s (out of 5) on the feedback questionnaire allow the presenter to dwell in a self-congratulatory bubble, neither cognizant of nor caring about his presentation inadequacies. After all, the scores were pretty good, weren't they?
WHY ARE AUDIENCES RELUCTANT TO BE HONEST?
I think it's either fear or apathy. Fear of not being a nice guy, of delivering feedback and a low score that the recipient won't like or that will hurt her feelings. Or...perhaps worse...too apathetic to take the time and energy to provide thoughtful, constructive comments. Hmmm...who's the loser here??
This begs for someone to develop a list of audience responsibilities. Stay tuned.