Assessing feedback. Its value was driven home during a recent presentation skills engagement I led for a new client. During our collaboration, the company’s leadership committed to assessing feedback following each of their presentations. They vowed to take specific steps to improve their performance and, thereby, boost their bottom line results.
Other companies would be well served to follow this lead. Is it time for your C-suite leaders to examine how your firm can enhance its media relations, public speaking, and Congressional testimony efforts? Perhaps you’ve not yet folded assessing feedback into your communications strategy. There’s no time like the present.
Ignore This at Your Own Risk
Assessing feedback—the third leg of The Three Keys To Great Presentations™—is the one that most executives ignore. Why? The fact is that, in order to perform, you have to pay attention to the first two keys—Preparation and Performance—at least to some degree. Assessing feedback is sometimes not even considered. Following a speech, media interview, or Congressional testimony appearance, many speakers just want to exhale, wipe the sweat off their brow, and exit the premises.
That’s too bad, for superior communicators get better results, whether your goal is to score a victory in the court of public opinion, launch a new product, or champion a public policy initiative.
Accomplished communicators employ a variety of methods for measuring feedback: Real-time feedback, advice from trusted colleagues in the audience, and evaluation forms, to cite just a few.
Good, Better, Best
Assessing feedback is crucial to continually advancing performance. How can you possibly get better tomorrow unless you undertake a conscious strategy to monitor how you did today?
Some executives fail to pay attention to real-time feedback. Granted, novice spokespeople have difficulty with this since they need to focus narrowly on disseminating their message. More advanced professionals, however, are advised to heed the nonverbal signs they receive from their audience or, in the case of a media interview, the reporter.
Are they paying attention, nodding their heads and smiling and making eye contact, for example? Or are they eyeing the door, fixated on their mobile devices, leaving the room, or cutting your interview short? Additionally, pay attention to their questions. If they are following your message, great. If, on the other hand, their queries are unfocused, you have some work to do before your next public foray.
Here are a few other methods that can help you further assess how you performed:
- When delivering a presentation, mingle with your audience afterward and ask some targeted questions about your speech.
- When participating in a media interview: Read your clips and review any video to determine whether your message was received as you intended.
- When offering Congressional testimony, have your government relations staff check in with Hill staff to learn how you performed.
Keep Your Feet on the Ground and Keep Reaching for the Stars
Just as the first chair in the orchestra is won by the violinist who absorbs the master’s teachings year after year, the standout leader gains knowledge from a trusted advisor capable of helping her sharpen those communications skills over the long run.
Set your speaking goals, and make them measurable and reachable. Strike a balance. If you aim too low, you won’t be challenged adequately and will likely stagnate. If you reach for the sky, you may get frustrated and your improvement curve flattens out, perhaps even plunging downward.
Check in with trusted colleagues and your communications consultant to ensure that your goals are appropriate for you. This outside perspective helps you clarify your specific objectives and work more effectively to reach them.
An expert communications consultant should be alert to your individual needs and have the ability to deliver the unvarnished truth, albeit in a diplomatic manner. It wouldn’t hurt to invite your sherpa to one of your speaking engagements or ask him to sit in on one of your interviews with a reporter. This empowers you with direct, immediate feedback designed to help you improve in both the short and long term.
I’ll state it as plainly as possible: Assessing feedback is essential. Once you have examined it, use it. As you practice for future engagements, remember to fold in the feedback you gain from the methods outlined above.
A housekeeping note: The Media Training Blog takes a holiday break following this issue. I’ll see you again on January 9, 2018, energized for a new year of commentary, analysis, and advice to help executives communicate in public.