Asking for feedback

1001meetingsphraseslargeI recently asked a colleague for some feedback following a presentation which I thought had been a bit shaky. ‘You did great’ was the reply, and the conversation moved on. Later on, when the warm glow of being told ‘well done’ had faded, I asked myself what I had actually learnt from that feedback and how would it help me improve. I realized that apart from thinking what a nice person my colleague was, I’d actually heard nothing which would help me do better next time. It then dawned on me that this was because of how I’d gone about asking for it. If I wanted to get meaningful feedback, then the way I asked for it had to be structured too.

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Basic steps to get the feedback you want

Getting feedback from peers is one of the most useful tools we have for enhancing our performance. Peer feedback is in real time, looks at learnt skills being used in real situations, and it’s from ‘end users’. But how we go about asking for this feedback has a huge influence on how useful what we hear will be. No more ‘Do you think my presentation was OK’? type questions, what do you really want to know?

Check with your peer that they are comfortable giving you feedback

If they say no, it’s not necessarily because they have nothing good to say! Not everyone is comfortable giving feedback, and those that aren’t tend to give the type of empty answers such as ‘great’ or ‘it was fine’.  A few ways to ask could be:

  • “I’m really hoping to improve my presentations skills and could use your help.  Do you mind giving me some feedback after my presentation?”
  • “Could you give me some feedback on my presentation afterwards?  It would help me a lot in improving my presentation skills.” 

Be specific about what you want feedback on

When asking for feedback, briefly explain what you would like to cover, and why it’s important to you.

  • “It would help me a lot if you could specifically pay attention to my body language during my presentation.”
  • “Could you try and focus on how I transition from point to point during my talk?”

And, if the other person is struggling to think of something to say, ask two basic questions:

  • “What did I do best?” 
  • “Is there something I can improve?” 

Don’t be afraid to dig deeper

For example, I was told that I had lost the audience in a presentation. By asking where I had lost them, why did they feel this had happened and did they have any suggestions for what I could do differently, I was able to think of ways to prevent this happening in my next presentation.                            

Since following these steps, I’ve found feedback far more useful and an increase in respect from both sides. There have only been a couple of times that I’ve winced at something somebody has said, but what they said was true. Ultimately, audiences at future presentations have benefited. So, take a big breath, smile and ask the question – could I ask you for some feedback?

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