Giving speakers feedback total transparency is the key

Not every conference (or similar event) bothers with giving speakers feedback. And they should. It’s one of the easiest things to do post event. Not doing this, is to take a liberty of the time and effort that speakers take to deliver their presentation.

To assume that your speakers do not wish to hear from the attendees is guessing that your speakers do not want to improve. In short, to avoid giving speakers feedback, is to break the unwritten contract that upholds our learning events.

Giving Speakers Feedback – total transparency is the key

Back when I started organising conferences (late 1990s!) we used to collect feedback via the paper form, which we would either include in the delegate pack, or place on chairs during the last refreshment break. Even with this old school approach, we would always ask for individual feedback on each speaker. This was pre the digital age; it is now much, much easier to provide feedback. So there’s NO EXCUSES.

Sometimes the details we collected were not at all flattering. With such detailed feedback available, literally in our hands, we were often left with a tricky question: should we be totally open in the feedback we passed on to each speaker. Perhaps you have recently been in this situation? How did you handle it?

While running events in various associations, my event teams faced this more often than I would have liked. So we had decisions to make. Firstly, should we tell a high profile member of our association that their sessions was rated very badly? And if we do, then do we pass on the actual remarks word for word. Tricky eh?

In part to avoid awkward telephone conversations, I decided to give the speakers their score (honestly) out of 5 and benchmark the score in an email. So something like “Our attendees rated you 3.5 out of 5. The average score for this conference was 4” But, we went one step further. Total transparency was the key. Along with the individual email I attached scanned copies of every form that made a comment about a speaker. No holds barred. It was there all in black and white. So, my lesson from the past is that we must help close the loop between speaker and audience, no matter how difficult it may be.

Our speakers take the stage to educate and inform, and in return our audiences should give their feedback to the speaker. When the conference organiser closes this loop, they ensure that EVERYONE learns from our events. And remember, we are in the learning business.

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