The Real Value of Conference Speaker Feedback

The Real Value of Conference Speaker Feedback

I had a friend call me last week. We spoke at the same conference and we both just got our feedback from those gigs. His feedback was mostly fine, but there were also some pretty hurtful statements people made.

I took a look at mine. To be humble, I rocked my session at the conference! So, I anticipated it would be pretty good. It was, mostly. I had 165 responses that were like this (these are actual verbatim responses):

  • Great storyteller and engages his audience.
  • Great presentation. Lots of good takeaways.
  • The BEST session I attended!!!
  • This was my favorite session of the conference! Tim was awesome! (thanks, mom!)
  • Very meaty information that energized my recruiting battery!
  • Wow! I couldn’t write fast enough!

I could go on, but you get the picture! So, there were 161 of these little nuggets of love and affirmation that I’ll carry around in my pocket for a while! There were also 4 nuggets like this:

  • The session did not meet my needs.
  • Made some bold statements that I considered to be offensive and insensitive.
  • Left the presentation with no takeaways. Content was lacking. (With “NO” takeaways! Really? Not one? Not even, I don’t think short white dudes should wear bow ties! Nothing?!) 
  • He bad mouthed Aerotek Staffing on four different occasions which I found tasteless. (it was only 3 times, FYI!) 

One big thing conferences don’t want you to do is also sell your products or services. 8% of the audience said I was trying to sell to them! I never once mentioned my own company! I talked about my blogging, which I give away for free. I guess I was trying to sell my ideas…

When I dug into my friend’s comments, what I found was he basically got the same kind of stuff. The majority was really, really positive and thankful, but there was a minority of these people that for whatever reason just didn’t like it the presentation. It could have the content. It could have been the style. It’s probably more the commenter and the day they’re having.

This is what happens when we get feedback as adult learners. We ignore all the positive stuff and we solely focus on the negative stuff, even when the negative stuff is just a minority of the overall message.

“Hey, you are a 4.7 out of 5! Awesome! Wow! Also, could you tighten up your project timelines a bit? That would just be a bonus.” Yeah, so, well, I guess I now suck at getting my projects done on time and my boss was soooo pissed!

I know many speakers who refuse to read their conference speaker feedback comments because they’ve figured out this about themselves. They’ll overly focus on the negative, obsess over it, and basically waste hours of their life overmuch to do about nothing. It was an hour we spent together. I hope you liked it, I’m sorry if you didn’t, I’ll try to better next time.

There is value in the feedback and think it basically boils down to this: 

1. Did the majority of people receive my message in a positive way?

2. Did I offend anyone, that in a normal worldly way, should feel offended?

3. If I was going to be speaking on another topic, would most of the audience be interested in hearing me speak on that topic?

I want people to get some value out of hearing me speak. I don’t want anyone to be offended, but I know some people might. I hope that number is extremely low, like one or zero. In the end, I want people to say I like how he presents and I would like to see him speak again if given the chance about another topic.

Conference feedback is about polar extremes. The people who leave comments either loved you or hated you. The person that just felt like it was ‘just fine’, has no desire or passion to leave a comment, and that would be the actual most valuable feedback a speaker could actually get!