Tough Crowd, huh? How to Assess, Apply, and Understand Feedback as a Communicator
You are presenting one of the most important presentations in your life, on a big stage. The lights are shining brightly, you are all geared up, the audience is ready. As you launch into your script, you feel energised by your delivery, convinced that you will receive rave reviews of your performance by the end of your presentation. Just then, you start to see a few restless heads yawning. Some of them start to leave the area. After your presentation, you asked around for feedback, and one brave soul tells you: “The presentation was … too technical”. What will you do?
This is more common than you think! As we covered previously – (Click HERE to read: How to Nurture Your Child into a Leader in the Classroom and Beyond), tough situations can happen in your communication settings. One example is a tough crowd. This does not mean a crowd with high expectations that you did not meet. Rather, from experience, most of these ‘tough situations’ come about from managing varied expectations – everyone will have their subjective taste, and the goal is to assess and improve efficiently. In short, you will not be able to please everyone, but showing the sincerity to improve these situations will go a long way!
Today, we will share three forward approaches you can take if you find yourself in the same troubling situation above!
#1. Separate Wheat from Chaff
Not every feedback should result in a change in your style. Part of being a professional or a communicator is to have the discipline to sieve through the comments you receive and pick out those that are effective. A member of the audience may prefer you to have a more energetic and louder persona. In contrast, another member of the same audience may request for a subdued and controlled presentation style instead. The key is to balance the feedback you receive and decide what best fits your communication objective.
One factor you can use is to pick out feedback that has coherence with your own style. This means the change in your presentation style or even content deck should be something you are comfortable with as a speaker. For example, using PowerPoint slides simply because you are told to do so may result in a stilted presentation style if you are not comfortable with slides. Another factor you can consider is the context of the feedback. As the communicator, you are more likely to have assessed the context of your presentation for the broad audience instead of individual tastes. In a crowd of technical experts, for example, feedback by one or two non-experts should not drastically change the way you present your information (unless it affects the broader audience!).
We say this not because we believe that some views are more important than others. Rather, as a communicator, you will receive constant and countless feedback from people around you. It would be a daunting process to incorporate every single piece of advice you receive. In preserving your speaking stamina, develop the evaluative process of looking through the feedback you receive and tailor them to suit your style and the context!
#2. Reason before Reacting
* We don’t have to be too defensive, combative & quick-to-react *
Some feedback can come across as curt or worse, rude! We have been there. When that happens, it is tempting to revert to a defensive stance and see the feedback as an attack on you as an individual. Instead of reacting, shift the focus to understanding the feedback first. One method of doing so is to extract the objective from the subjective. There is an emotion-neutral point for each feedback, even if it is presented emotionally. For example, “you are boring” may translate to objective elements of the presentation that was not engaging (e.g. too technical, statistics). Understanding these underlying objective elements can help you to calm down and sieve up constructive criticism!
We recall an experience of one of our Senior Trainers in one of his first gig as a trainer for a regular adult class. He was covering for the principal trainer and within the first 5 minutes of the session, was told that he was perhaps “too young” to lead the session. Instead of jumping at the emotional reaction. Our Senior Trainer paused and tried to unpack the reasons for the comment. After a sincere conversation, it was uncovered that the student was concerned about whether the Senior Trainer could provide enough stories/illustrations that are relevant. With that feedback, our Senior Trainer took additional effort to incorporate such stories in his delivery. The good news? Our student immensely enjoyed the session! Imagine the difference if our trainer had reacted angrily or defensively instead. Sometimes, that pause can help us as communicators to focus on the reasons instead of the reaction.
#3. Keep an Open and Engaged Mindset
Finally, we know that it is not easy to receive criticism. It goes without saying that it is always more pleasant to receive compliments instead. Remember to keep an open and engaged mind when receiving criticisms or views from a tough crowd. The aim is to enjoy the learning process. Remind yourself that when someone takes the time to approach you and offer feedback, they are likely to have a genuine interest in seeing you improve. With the careful approach above as well, you will be more comfortable picking out the changes that are best for you and your presentation!
Impress Your Audience!
The feedback loop is a treasured tool for a communicator. It is a powerful source of insight into how your presentation appears to a specific audience type or presentation style. While receiving it may not be an entirely comfortable process, you hold power to ensure that the feedback received is an effective method for you to improve as a speaker. The next time you face a tough crowd, try our methods out and share how it turns out for you!
If you’re keen to take your public speaking & presentation skills (either business/corporate presentation or kids in-class presentation) to the next level so that you may public speak and present with flair and charisma, feel free to check out our offerings below!
For more about our Public Speaking Course for Adults :
For more about our Public Speaking Course for Kids / Children: