Presentation Lesson: Giving Feedback

Is Walking Out Feedback?

Over coffee last week, a group discussing leadership and presentations asked an interesting question:

Is it rude to walk out on a presentation?

A few answered without hesitation: “Absolutely! What better way to give immediate feedback? If it’s not of value to me, I get up and leave.” Many of the group shook their heads in agreement.

Then, one of the group got up from the table and left the room to presumable make a call (he was looking at his smartphone as he was leaving). I immediately asked the group: “So does that mean Joe just gave us feedback on our conversation that it is not of value to him?” The group was silent for a few seconds. “Well, no. This is a different situation.”

Context is Key

You see, the group was only looking at one situation that they did not make clear to either Joe or I. They were referring to a presentation to a large group of people, presumably at a conference or other event where there is more than one presentation option.

But what if it’s a small group? Or what if it’s your boss or co-worker giving the presentation? The problem with providing feedback with our feet (leaving) is that it does not always work. It is not giving feedback because the presenter is not necessarily receiving it.

How do you deliver immediate feedback?

It is difficult to give feedback to someone that does not ask. Ideally, the presenter will ask for feedback in the form of a post event survey, or in the case of an internal company presentation, in the form of an email. If they do not, as a leader it is up to you to approach them.

Instead of walking out and assuming the ‘get your message,’ a more professional act would be to offer feedback to the presenter with respect and positive regard for their future performance. Here are a few guidelines to help:

  • ♦ Approach the conversation with a respectful, positive regard for the person’s future performance (worth repeating).
  • ♦ Ask the presenter if they would be open to feedback.
  • ♦ Preface the conversation with authentic concern for their success.
  • ♦ Try to approach the presenter in a private conversation. Whether it is after the presentation in the corner of the room, or later in their office, having a private conversation is less threatening and more respectful.
  • ♦ If you are providing feedback on the presenter’s abilities – wait until after the event (see the first tip). Also, frame this in a positive way. Instead of providing a negative perspective of the past, focus on the future and what could be done differently. Example: Joe, I noticed you have a lot of great information to share. Have you considered putting less information on each slide so that it can be viewed by the people in the back of the room?
  • ♦ If you must provide feedback during the presentation itself, wait for a pause or other appropriate opportunity to ask a question or comment.
  • ♦ When commenting in public (i.e. during the presentation itself), frame your questions and comments in a positive way, giving the presenter the opportunity to stay professional but also providing your input. For example, if you believe they are not covering the material that you expected, ask if they will be covering XYZ topic today.
  • ♦ Consider how you would like to receive feedback about your performance.
  • ♦ If you feel you are not getting your message across, consider engaging a professional. If this is an important skill for this person, providing coaching is an investment in their success and your company’s.