P3: Reflection and assessment

Simply finishing a talk does not make you a good presenter. The routine line to someone who’s stopped speaking “Thank you for your presentation, I very much enjoyed it,” is as insightful and honest as “Thank you for holding the line, your call is important to us.” It is trite cliche designed to give the impression of gratefulness and interest. Feedback for presentations is generally useless.


You never gave honest feedback, why do you think anyone else does?

Or maybe it was honest, in comparison to every other presentation you’ve ever seen. The standards against which a presentation is measured are often about relative uniformity. Their insight is therefore meaningless.

It would be better saying, “Your presentation was just as good as any other presentation I have seen today. I couldn’t tell you much about it, if you asked me now, but it probably wasn’t too bad. I shall tick the box near the good side because I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

The feedback from talks really isn’t up to much – unless it is a disagreement on fact.

This ineffectual feedback is actually a significant challenge in delivering and improving presentations. The expectation of the audience is not high, the recipients are usually unwilling or unable to offer educated comment due to their desire to conform, their unwillingness to upset or or offend and principally their lack of experience of great presentations. Similarly feedback forms seldom represent a foundation for effective assessment of presentation quality and overall this presents both a real problem in development of the skill and sadly the perpetuation of poor technique.

Reflection by the presenter on the quality of their own presentation is also a challenge. Use of the p cubed concept allows a preliminary comparison to other presentations. A good presentation should have a clear, single and memorable message. “Can you remember emphasising the central message of this presentation?” (p1) The media should not detract, duplicate or distract from the message. “How did the media add to the presentation?” (p2) The delivery of the message should be engaging. “Did you speak to the audience or at them? If they weren’t there, would it have been any different?” (p3) If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then you are a better presenter than most. If you can answer “yes” to all of them, then ask an audience member these questions. “What was the single message of this talk” (p1) “Why was the media in this presentation better than previous talks?” (p2) “What was different about this presenter?” (p3)

Then reflect and make the next presentation even better. All skills need practice; none of them are intuitive. Reflection brings improvement if it is honest and informed, and you are prepared to examine your reflections and move onwards.

When it comes to presenting, become informed; read, talk and share about presentations. Seek out good examples such as TED and TEDx talks. Practice. And reflect. If your message is valuable, and it is; if your audience are worth your time, and they are; then you will work and read and practise and you will improve.


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