12 Tips for Receiving Feedback

Seth Godin is the author of several books about “marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect”. They are bestsellers. His blog is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it. This post is part of a series based on original posts by Seth.

In his blog post from 11 January 2014, Seth discussed something that every public speaker wants—applause—and something every public speaker should want—feedback.

Applause is important for a speaker. It is the best way in which the members of an audience can show their collective appreciation for the speaker’s efforts. It is welcome recompense for a speaker at the end of a talk or presentation, and it is a motivational shot in the arm for the next time.

And then there is feedback. It’s not always easy to hear, and sometimes it’s going to sting a bit, but if you want to grow as a speaker, feedback—and appropriate action on your part—is vital.


Here are a dozen ideas when it comes to feedback:

    1. Realize that fedback is an important part of your growth as a speaker.
    2. Ask for feedback.
    3. Accept the fact that the feedback you get will not always be the feedback that you were hoping for.
    4. If there is a particular aspect of your speaking which you would like to improve, ask one or two people before you speak to look out for it (e.g., talking too fast; making eye contact, etc.).
    5. Create a short (one-page) form for audience members to complete after your talk. It could be as simple as two questions: (a) What did you like most about the talk? (b) What are your suggestions for improvement?
    6. Filter the feedback. Separate the constructive criticism from that which is not.
    7. Even if, at first blush, you don’t agree with the constructive criticism, don’t dismiss it out of hand. Sometimes things take a while to sink in. Take some time to think about it.
    8. Video yourself so that you can compare your performance to the feedback.
    9. Realize that people have different opinions. What might be problematic for one person might not have even registered with another.
    10. Take on board the feedback that you consider valid and useful. If in doubt, get a second or third opinion from people who have seen you speak.
    11. Act on the feedback. Take concrete steps to improve.
    12. Don’t try to fix everything at once, especially if there are several areas for improvement. Much better to prioritize and start with the most important items on the list.


The Feedback You’ve Been Waiting For

by Seth Godin

“You did a great job. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I wouldn’t change a thing. You completely nailed it, it’s fabulous.”

Of course, that’s not feedback, really. It’s applause.

Applause is great. We all need more of it.

But if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback. And that feedback, if it’s more than just carping, will be constructive. It will clearly and generously lay out ways you can more effectively delight your customers and create a remarkable experience that leads to ever more customers.

If you’re afraid of that feedback, it’s probably not going to arrive as often as you’d like it to. On the other hand, if you embrace it as the gift it can be, you may decide to go looking for it.

Empty criticism and snark does no one any good. But genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a priceless gift.

Applause is good too.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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4 Responses to 12 Tips for Receiving Feedback

  1. Recently I found a great video on receiving feedback, by Josh Shipp.

    One of the things Josh said that I really liked relates to #9 on your list: “You are not as good as your good feedback, and you’re also not as bad as your bad feedback.”

    (Mind you, on the link, I also wrote a rant about getting some unsolicited and often unhelpful feedback at Toastmasters!)

  2. Some great tips in this list – thanks for sharing, John.

    I especially like #7 (“take some time”) and #10 (“get a 2nd or 3rd opinion”).

    Most of the feedback I gather is about online learning, rather than talks, but I’d say very similar guidelines apply.

    If you’re looking for more ideas on this, Charles Greene has published the great questions he uses on his own feedback form, and recently Sheila Robinson shared a neat way to ask people how they felt during a session. I’ve linked to both of their posts from my blog:

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