I was once in a training programme where we learned the importance of feedback
We had various tasks to do, which brought up a few personal issues for some people in the room. We then had the opportunity to take the stage and share what we had learned.
One of the students used every opportunity to get on the stage and say how hard it was for them
In a tearful summary, she asked for feedback from the room so that she could break through and be a better public speaker. Moved by her rendition I decided to tell her what I had been thinking during all of her shares beyond the first three, where I had been sympathetic.
What she hadn’t gauged was the reaction of many in the group. We had started to dread her sharing as it always made the mood and energy of the room plummet. We had also been taught that there is no such thing as positive and negative feedback, as it was the perceived negatives that most people never say, thus the person remains oblivious to them. By giving feedback we improve a student’s ability to consciously work on these previous blind-spots.
There is no such thing as negative feedback when it is given with the intent to improve you
Yes, there are some people who would give feedback which is not helpful, though this usually comes outside of training environments (if not always). When feedback comes from someone who intends for you to improve, you will not always like it, but some lessons are not easy to learn, and subtlety may not always work!
Because we all have our own opinion on what we do well, or not, it can take an exceptional level of awareness to take constructive feedback, especially with public speaking/pitching for funding. I can’t remember how many CEO’s I’ve watched speak with no charisma, passion or regard for the mood of the room. Talks where people are streaming out of the room because of a lack of interest, engagement or appropriate breaks for drinks or visits to the toilet.
It seems like many speakers in corporate events have little or no gauge of reading the audience or engaging with them
This is why feedback is essential for even a seasoned speaker or pitcher as nobody is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Also, feedback changes from person to person. It is subjective to the experiences of the audience member. For this reason feedback is not right or wrong, it is an opinion and can be taken or discarded as you see fit.
However, the big danger is…
I spoke to the girl in question, who had asked very publicly for feedback. I told her that I felt sorry for her at first but was starting to dread seeing her ready to share as she rarely had anything positive or uplifting to say. This, in turn, was bringing down the mood and energy of the room.
After hearing this I was given another dose of how bad it was to be her and that I didn’t understand. In her mind she had a point. In my mind I thought “if you only wanted nice feedback which validated your current reality, you should have asked for it.”
Not everyone really wants to hear honest feedback
However, I have learned to preframe giving feedback during my pitch training sessions. This is because not many people who fail with their funding pitch will ever find out why….because honest feedback is hard to get, and often difficult to hear. However, if you are serious about improving your pitch, public speaking or ability to build rapport with your audience, you will only improve with practice and honest feedback, which should not be debated, or people will stop giving it. The only thing to say to feedback given with a positive intention is; “Thank you”.
Feedback is simply one person’s opinion which may be right or wrong. However, by learning to take feedback graciously, you will get more of it and hopefully not be the 50-something CEO who thinks they are a good speaker, simply because nobody was given the opportunity to tell them otherwise.
If you have a pitch and want some honest feedback, then come and join me at one of my events. You may even learn something new!