You finish a presentation, take a few moments to wind down and talk to a few people who are hanging around to shake your hand or ask a question and then you sit down to read the evaluations. You might even of received a standing ovation for your performance. If you have a numbered scoring system on the evaluations most people have circled all 4’s and 5’s. Some of the comments indicate you are the best speaker they have ever heard, and everyone needs to hear this message. There are a few people who gave you a 2 or a 3 and may have even written a few less desirable comments. It is easy to bask in the glory of the great reviews and discard the negative ones. There is danger however in doing this. You must be cautious about reading your own press clippings and thinking you are all of that, thinking that you have arrived.
You might be a great trainer and / or a great speaker. You may however, just be the best they have seen and their experiences may be limited.
The bigger point is that the best professional speakers in the world are always conducting a self evaluation and self assessment of their presentations and continually striving to get better. They do not make excuses when the presentation does not go well. They do not blame the fact they had less time than they normally do. They do not blame the fact the facility was not the greatest. They do not blame the technology glitches. When the best presenters encounter these challenges they immediately improvise, adapt and overcome.
After each presentation do you ask yourself:
- Was the order and sequencing of the material the most effective for helping get the message across?
- Do the visual aides need to be reworked or enhanced?
- Do the stories need to be updated, reworked, told differently or presented in a different sequence?
- Would there have been stories more appropriate for this audience?
- Did I meet the audiences needs?
- Did I involve the audience?
- Did I embarrass anyone in the audience and potentially shut down their willingness to participate or to dissuade them from attending future training?
- Did I have too much material?
- Did I answer questions in an appropriate manner to both enhance learning and to encourage participation?
- What could I do to make this presentation better for the audience?
- What can I do at future presentations to enhance the learning environment?
If you are not critiquing your performance you are not getting better. If you are not paying attention to the comments in the negative evaluations we will never get better. If you think you know better what the audience needs than they do, you are doing a disservice to the audience. The audience is the reason you are there.
Seek information on ways to get better.
Take the time to check out http://www.slideshare.net/jessedee/you-suck-at-powerpoint, then get a copy of Garr Reynolds book Presentation Zen and read it a couple of time and sign up for his blog. Check out Nancy Duarte’s books and website. Read Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs and other books or audio recordings that will help you learn from some of the great professional speakers.