Evaluate Your Presentation
• Choose methods of collecting feedback.
• Figure out what to measure.
Congratulations—you made it! Once you’ve delivered the presentation, it’s over, right?
Not exactly. Presentations are an essential part of business, and more than likely you’ll be called on again—and again—to speak in front of groups or via web conference to relay important information.
Each presentation is an opportunity to hone your skill. You’ll receive immediate feedback from the audience, through their facial expressions, reactions to your stories and humor, and the quality and quantity of questions they ask. But it’s also a good idea to gather some more formal evaluations from your audience, the client who asked you to present, and—perhaps most importantly—yourself.
Methods of Collecting Feedback
There are several ways to collect feedback.
Paper Evaluation Forms
These are often called “smile sheets,” a reference to the simplest types of questionnaires where attendees circle a smiley face or frown to rate your performance. Smile sheets are rarely this rudimentary anymore. But it’s still a good idea to keep them simple if you want people to fill them out. Asking for too much detail when they’re ready to leave is unrealistic. Instead, consider a few basic questions and different ways to collect answers. Here are a few options:
• Rate the content:
○ How informative was the presentation? (Offer a scale of one to five.)
○ Did you learn something new in this presentation? (Ask them to circle yes or no.)
○ I felt the information in this presentation was _____. (Offer a scale of too simple, simple, just right, complicated, and too complicated.)
• Rate the performance:
○ How interesting was the presentation? (Offer a scale of one to five.)
○ The presenter kept my attention. (Ask them to circle yes or no.)
○ I enjoyed the delivery style of the presentation. (Offer a scale of not at all, somewhat, yes, and very much.)
• Grade the content and performance as a whole:
○ On a scale of one to five (one being poor, five being excellent) how would you rate this presentation?
○ I would recommend this presentation to a friend or colleague. (Ask them to circle yes or no.)
Always leave a place for participants to write some comments, if they choose. You can add more questions if you believe the audience will fill it out. Always try to make it as easy as possible, however, by including phrases or ratings they can circle, rather than several short-answer questions. Arrange for a colleague to stand by the exit and collect these evaluations as people leave.
These are a great way to collect data in a format you can quickly analyze. What percentage of people thought your content was too complex or too basic? How many people thought your presentation style was “excellent” compared with “fair?” How many people would recommend your presentation? Answers can be downloaded into a spreadsheet and viewed as charts for an easy way to understand how well you did.
The downside of online surveys is they usually cannot be completed before the participants leave. Mobile phones make it possible for people to view the survey and respond, but you can’t stand by the door and check to see if they’ve done so. Sending out an email reminder and a link to the survey several hours or days after the presentation will garner some responses, but you will probably not get as high a response rate as with paper forms you collect on the spot.
Many conferences are now including ways to evaluate presentations on their conference app. If audience members register for a particular presentation, the app will often prompt them to answer a few quick questions about it once it’s over. If they enter a session without registering, they can still easily find a place within the app to offer feedback. As the speaker, encourage audience members to complete these surveys. If you’ve done well and receive good scores, the event organizers are likely to invite you back.
Of course, if you’re giving a virtual presentation, the electronic survey is definitely your best option. Use the functionality of the web platform for quick responses. You can also gather feedback throughout your presentation with polling features. For example: “How well do you understand this new safety regulation?” (Offer options: very well, well, or I do not understand.)
If you’d like to increase response rates for either paper forms or electronic surveys, consider offering an incentive. Make the incentive connected to the topic of your presentation or expertise, and something most participants will want—a discount on a service, a complimentary consultation, or free access to online resources.
Show of Hands
This least formal feedback method is also not as reliable. On paper forms and most online surveys, participants can offer feedback anonymously, increasing the likelihood of honesty. When they’re sitting in front of you, answering direct questions, people are more likely to skew the answers to the positive side. To offset this awkwardness, don’t ask for a show of hands “if you liked the presentation today.” Instead, ask questions such as, “How many of you learned something new today?” or “How many would like to see more audience interaction in the future? Less audience interaction?” Beware of leading questions, such as, “Should people concerned with safety follow our new protocols?” and throw in a few light-hearted questions to balance out any feeling of putting them on the spot: “Who’s ready for happy hour?”
If you have a co-presenter, consider yourselves a team who delivered one presentation. Don’t ask the audience to evaluate you separately.
Getting to present is always an opportunity to show off your ability to combine subject matter expertise with public speaking skills. It’s a privilege and one that can open doors for your career. Presenting inside your organization or to a broader audience is a great way to get noticed. It could just lead to your promotion or a new job.
While it might seem like the presenters and speakers during TED Talks or conference keynotes or a wedding are simply naturals, they’ve all put in the work to get better at their craft. It starts with understanding why they’ve been asked (or chosen) to speak. Knowing what they should talk about and what the audience expects from the presentation helps shape the planning and preparation every successful presentation needs. Once they’ve got the bones of what they’ll present, they fill it in with examples, stories, research, and insights. They rehearse the presentation multiple times to account for any possible pitfall. They guide the audience from start to finish with every attendee engaged and focused with questions to ask.
You can become just as powerful of a presenter.
Use Tool 10-1 to plan future improvements of the entire process—from planning to delivery.
PRESENTATION PLANNING AND IMPROVEMENT WORKSHEET
Even though you have worked your way through creating and delivering a presentation, the process doesn’t end there. Successful presenters make time after every presentation to reflect on the successes of the session and document ideas for improving future speeches. Use this checklist to evaluate your planning and performance after a presentation so you can improve next time. Check “Yes” or “No” answers for each item. Note that any “No” answers may indicate weaknesses in your process. Record possible solutions and ways to improve your presentation in the comments section.
Good luck with your next presentation! Make it a success.