Presentations, whether created by yourself or by a professional PowerPoint presentation designer, are a large part of business, academia, and a host of other industries. As with anything in life, your presentations will not always be perfect. If you want to improve your presentation skills, one of the best things you can do is seek feedback from your audience.
Effective feedback is hard to give and can be even harder to receive. If emotions run high, someone uses the wrong language, or expectations are not set, your feelings can get hurt and you'll find that you’re not very open to receiving suggestions. When delivered right and in the proper context, though, feedback can be very beneficial.
There are several kinds of feedback that will improve your presentation skills to ask your peers for, and these four are among the best:
Positive feedback is helpful in moderation. Positive feedback focuses on the things you truly did well, but it shouldn’t be confused with general comments that people often give to be nice. An empty comment will be unspecific and impersonal, like, “Great job!” Positive feedback will sound more like, “You did a great job maintaining eye contact with the audience!”
It’s always nice to hear that you did a good job. Science proves that positive feedback stimulates the reward center of the brain, reinforcing good behavior.
Positive feedback inspires you to continue doing those things for which you were praised and motivates you to be better. It might not feel natural to ask for positive feedback, but it’s just as important as negative feedback.
Negative feedback includes commenting on something that has already happened—in this case, your presentation—but isn’t hurtful criticism. The aim of negative feedback is to analyze the flaws of your production so you can avoid making those mistakes again. If you look at negative feedback as a way to analyze those areas where you need to improve, there’s no need to be apprehensive.
Realistically, it’s never easy to hear negative feedback, especially when you feel you gave your best efforts. Do your best not to take it too personally and treat this type of feedback as an opportunity to be better. When you ask for negative feedback, encourage your peers to stick to comments surrounding the goals of the presentation and to use the right language.
Future-focused feedback concentrates on improving your presentations in the future. It doesn’t dwell on the mistakes of the present but on actionable recommendations to make your presentation better next time.
It’s of little use if someone tells you that you used too many filler words or should’ve dressed more professionally after the fact. If they suggest speaking slower or wearing a white shirt with a tie during your next presentation, these comments will sit better as they give you a specific plan for correcting possible mistakes.
One category of effective feedback should follow a particular structure that answers the “when” and the “why” of the situation. Psychologist Victor Lipman says that effective feedback should be purposeful, timely, meaningful, and truthful.
Effective feedback goes back to the original purpose of your presentation and gives suggestions based on those specific goals. You should seek feedback on time—as soon as possible while your presentation is still fresh instead of receiving feedback after the fact.
Feedback should be meaningful and focused on specific action items that you can work on. The best feedback is honest and direct, even when it’s hard to do so; kind comments are nice but will not give you a framework for improving your skills.
The right feedback that tells you which aspects of your presentation have room for improvement. Seek constructive feedback, and consider every type of feedback as an opportunity to better yourself and to push yourself to give the best presentation possible.
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