Friday, May 17, 2013

How to Handle Critical Presentation Evals

Unfortunately, sessions are either "good" or they're not and you may not have any control over that.

(What do you mean?  I do the writing, the demoing and the speaking...I control everything.)

Au contraire mon ami. You are not in control of who shows up to listen.

Different people are going to react differently to your presentation and sometimes absolutely nothing you could have done would have made your presentation "good" for some of those people.

David Leedy sent me this quote yesterday and it is so true:
“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing." 
- Aristotle

My advice on handling criticism is to first be your own harshest critic.  If you didn't execute your plan,  then admit it to yourself and if someone comments on it in an eval then so be it.  You know you could have done better.  No problem there.  Mistakes happen and everyone has made them.

If you executed your plan to the letter but it turned out your plan wasn't such a good one, well, see the previous paragraph, remember what didn't work and don't do the same thing next time.

If your plan was good and your execution was reasonably good but you receive overly critical evaluations or comments then you have to look at the percentages.  If the majority of folks gave you positive feedback, then take any valid reasonable criticism in stride, learn something from it and move on.  Don't be dismissive of negative feedback but before you take it to heart put it in context.

Mr. White: It is very important that you don't stink today.
Lenny Haise: Hey, I make no guarantees.
"That Thing You Do"

Always remember that the best way to avoid bad evals is to do your work ahead of time and make your own guarantees, uh, luck.

I did a session twice at Connect 2013.  It was my first time speaking in Orlando and, I must say, it gave me a nervous thrill like I haven't had in a while.  After all, that stage is "it" for us.  I was very happy with the way both sessions went.  The support I had from others in the room was tremendous and, believe me, that makes a difference.  Given that I was very happy with how those two sessions went I thought some might be interested in seeing what the evals actually looked like.  They are not perfect and I seriously have no idea how they rank with anyone else who spoke but I'm pretty pleased with them. (Session 1, Session 2)

I gave a redacted version of the same presentation last week at IAmLug.  I did not plan properly and ran out of time.  It wasn't bad but the session could have been better.  We'll see what the evals look like.  I also know that some people got a lot from the session so it all kind of balances out.

Balance is good.  Remember that when you're reading your session evals.