Presentation Lesson: Asking For Feedback

Are you a great presenter? How do you know? Getting feedback is a great way to evaluate the impact of your presentation versus your intent. Proactively asking for feedback allows you to focus on what is important for you and your continuous improvement in becoming a powerful presenter.

I know it is difficult to ask for feedback when you are reluctant to give the presentation in the first place. Especially for those of us who lean toward the introvert direction of energy. However, being proactive and asking for feedback will allow you to do it in a way that is comfortable for you.

Presentation Feedback and Evaluation

Learning programs often use the 4 Levels of evaluation developed by Donald Kirkpatrick, Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin. Though not all presentations are designed to educate, they are meant to have some impact: inform, inspire an action, or entertain. So what if we applied the Kirkpatrick 4 levels of evaluation to your presentation performance?

Level 1 – Reaction

To what degree did your audience act favorably to your presentation?

At this level you could ask the participants for feedback at key points throughout your presentation. Some of the items you may consider asking:

  • Is the presentation visible for you? Can you see it well enough from your seat / computer?
  • Can you hear me? Is the volume appropriate for your seat / location?
  • How is the pace, are we moving too slow or too fast?

These questions are designed to get an immediate reaction of whether or not your presentation is going well. Of course you can also ask more content specific questions such as:

  • Is what we are covering what you expected?
  • Do you have any clarifying questions so far?

Caution: If you get an unexpected response to these questions, be ready to make an adjustment to your content!

Level 2 – Learning

How did the participants change at the end of your presentation?

At this level you are looking for confirmation that your intended outcome was actually achieved. If your intent was to inform, are the participants now knowledgeable on the topic? Intending to get them into action? What commitment are they making right now to support that?

This level is usually where you will find an after event evaluation or survey is best. This could be a paper survey you distribute an collect before they leave the room, or if virtual, this is a survey that they are taken to immediately after the virtual meeting ends. Questions you may consider asking:

  • Did we cover the content you expected?
  • Was this content useful?
  • What decision or action have you committed to?
This level is also the best one to gain feedback on your performance directly. Include in your survey direct and specific questions about your skills. Questions you may consider asking:
  • Did the presenter explain the information clearly?
  • Was the presenter knowledgeable about the material?
  • Did the presenter appear calm and confident?

Let your skills assessment (member area) direct you to which questions to ask. Whatever you want to improve is the topic you want to ask in your feedback / evaluation form.

Level 3 – Behavior

To what degree participants apply what they have heard to their life after the presentation?

This is really for events that have a behavior change intent. If yours does not – stop here. Otherwise, this level of evaluation looks at the impact of the event on participants behavior months after it occurred. If your intent is to have that impact, then a follow-up survey (in person or virtual) would offer you additional feedback. It is more on the action you were trying to inspire vs. the actual presentation itself. Questions you may consider asking:

  • How often have you used this information in the past week (month / 3 months):
  • Have you shared this information with others?
  • What additional information do you need?

Level 4 – Results

What are the results produced by the behavior change?

Again, this is for events that have a behavior change intent. This level measures the impact to the business: increased productivity, decreased errors, etc. For the presenter this level is about the longer term impact you want to have on your audience. Questions you may ask yourself at this level:

  • How are the participants different as a result of my presentation?
  • How much is the increase (or decrease) in their performance (or errors)?

It is key to know that you will be measuring level 4 before you begin your presentation. You will need to measure the same item before and after the event.

Final Advice

No one likes to hear negative feedback, especially when you have worked so hard on creating that powerful presentation. Working with a trusted advisor or coach will help you sort through the feedback you receive. Two important guidelines to remember when reviewing the feedback you receive:

  1. Never read the reviews immediately following the event – wait 24 hours;
  2. Always consider the context in which the feedback was given;
  3. For all comments, ask yourself: ‘is it true?’
  4. Change happens slowly, one step at a time – be patient with yourself and others!