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Printed 2014/08/21 02:27AM

Evaluating Sessions You Attend

By Steve Jones, 2011/06/20

I have seen more than a few posts about feedback that speakers get from sessions in the last couple months. Last week Buck Woody made an attempt to build a better form that could be used for feedback, which I like, but I think it’s a little too long for most events. If you attend 3-6 sessions in a day, filling out forums like this could be a chore.

Attendees Should Give Feedback

I know your time is valuable, but please give some feedback. I agree with Buck that the numeric scores are useless, but I know organizers wants something. If you liked the session, give it a 10, if it was OK, a 5, and if it didn’t work for some reason, drop a 1 in there and leave it at that. Let’s just make it a simpler system because no one knows what a 6 is vs a 7.

But Be Fair.

The way you perceive a session is not the way everyone else does. If you think the speaker was technically wrong, tell them. If they didn’t cover what was listed in the abstract, tell them. If they wandered around the topic without making sense, tell them.

But don’t mark up a form with bad scores because you didn’t like their music, or their shirt, or don’t agree with the approach or thought something was too (or not enough) technical. More often than not I find people are so subjective in this area, and the inappropriately send information to other attendees, or impact the speaker’s ability to present in the future.

If you have specific complaints, speakers would appreciate hearing them. You don’t have to rate everything, but give one specific piece of criticism that you’d want changed. One thing Buck does well is give you a chance to impact a presentation, and you ought to drop one written comment (not a score) on each evaluation you turn in.

If you don’t have something bad to say, say something.

I know that many evaluations are used for raffles, so please feel free to fill them out quickly, but I would appreciate some feedback. I do like seeing all 4s or 5s on my scores, but they often don’t help me improve the presentation. Give me one thought about what I could do better.

For Speakers

If you’re a speaker, you have some idea of what goes into building a presentation, writing a description, developing flow in your presentation, and pacing. Therefore, you ought to be able to evaluate a few things for other speakers.

You ought to be able to tell them if they hit their mark in terms of what they said they’d deliver. I think speakers often have a better perspective on evaluating this. Not that non-speaking attendees’ opinions don’t count, but they sometimes aren’t very well thought out

If you know the speaker, drop them an email, or take a (private) moment to give them an assessment of what you thought. I routinely let others know when I think they could improve something, or have approached a session in a way that turned me (or others) off.

If you don’t know the speaker, introduce yourself, and say “I have some constructive feedback on your session. You don’t have to do this, but I thought …”  and then explain your point of view. It’s not rude, or assuming, and believe me it’s appreciated.

Just be aware that it’s an opinion and don’t get upset if the speaker doesn’t make the change you mentioned. You’re still one of many, and while it’s nice to hear your opinion, it’s not a marching order.


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