3 Things We Can Learn from Audience Feedback During a Presentation

Audience Feedback can help make your next presentation better

What’s the best way to gauge the effectiveness of a presentation? After putting in hours of work researching, practicing and refining, you want to know whether you got your point across during show time—especially if you plan to use similar material in the future.

Of course, you could wait to see if anyone approaches you after the presentation to volunteer their comments or ask questions. But every moment you wait between when you’re in front of your audience and when you collect feedback, you’re losing valuable data. And if you’re speaking at a conference, people are often ready to rush off to their next session as soon as the applause winds down.

As CEO TJ Walker writes for Forbes, your audience will give you great, specific feedback if you ask them specific questions. General feedback like “You did great” or “I liked it a lot” is useless when it comes to judging your performance and making edits. You need concrete data from your audience members, and you need a way to collect it.

That’s where polling technology comes in. By using audience interaction during your presentation, you can gather honest (and anonymous) responses from every single person in the room. Better yet, the response slides embed directly in your PowerPoint so you get instant results. That means if people are confused about something, you have time to rectify the situation and revisit your key points.

Here are three important things you can learn from your audience if you take the time to collect their specific feedback:

What the Audience Retained

When you design your presentation, you want to affect the audience’s explicit memory—the parts of your presentation that people can remember later or recognize it again if they come across it down the line. And when you ask for feedback, you want to test their explicit memory.

Asking the audience which of your points really stuck out to them is a great way to evaluate the flow and order of your presentation. For instance, let’s say you show your audience a slide containing a multiple-choice poll and ask them to text in A, B, C or D depending on which point they remember most clearly.

If only 10 percent of the room answers A, but you consider that to be the most important takeaway of the whole day, you’ll know it’s time to give it a new placement in your presentation. Hint: The beginning and end of your presentation will always stick out more than the middle.

What People Want to Know More About

Your time on stage or behind the podium is finite. As much as you’d love to talk about the topic at hand forever, your strict time slot (and the audience’s fidgeting) demands otherwise. You may find yourself questioning what to cut and what to keep if you have to shave off time.

Why not ask the audience what they think? Ask them which topics they wanted to know more about or which areas felt glossed-over to them so you can prioritize the most compelling material in the future.

What to Clarify for Next Time

You’ve heard your own presentation so many times that it makes perfect sense to you. But you may have unknowingly lost your audience at some point, whether you accidentally slipped into using technical jargon or your slide transition just didn’t make sense. Or perhaps you cited a relevant statistic but the audience needed a little more context to make sense of it.

Using a live poll is a great chance to collect honest feedback about which points your audience didn’t connect on. When you go to re-work your presentation for future use, you can address these hiccups and get back on track.

Asking for specific audience input while your presentation is still fresh in everyone’s mind—or while it’s still happening—is a great way to find out what worked, what didn’t and what people want to know more about.

Photo courtesy Southgeist on Wikimedia Commons

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