Feedback – Your #1 Tool for Success by Mark Davis

Feedback – Your #1 Tool for Success

The only way to get better

Where is the best place to get feedback in your training room? Not from your friends.

They’re too polite.

What do you your friends say when you ask how it went? “You were great”


“I loved how you told that story”

Your friends lie to you so they don’t hurt your feelings.

Now we want to believe them. Even though we may feel it didn’t go as well as they say.

Also, your friends may not be the ones attending the training session that you are running. It might not be possible unless you record the audio and video of every training you run.

No, the best person for feedback is you.

It’s why great speakers always record themselves. And listen back to the entire recording later.

After the applause dies down or after the business presentation is over and the sale made.

That is the time to review and find the best part of your talk, and the worst. Then after listening to it, you have to edit. Be ruthless.

The audience only holds 3-5 pieces of information at one time. So you will always do better to say something, then provide points relevant to that topic for up to 7 minutes. Repetition on a key topic will always get you a better result than introducing extra points and a lot of irrelevant fluff.

When you review your work, I recommend you do this as well…. Write or draw a flowchart or map of your session.

This starts with you taking a huge piece of paper – even flipchart size. Starting at the top, and seeing how the “flow” goes.

If you had a lesson plan, you can compare the two side by side.

(Note: This works whether you’re coaching a football team and running a 90-minute session, or you’re teaching people how to bake a  cake.)

Write down the theme of your session.

What was your opening statement or introduction? Write down your first key point, the first story, first joke.

Then follow through analyzing your training so you can track it in the future when you deliver it. Point out along the way as you listen, to any key emotions or points that gave you a positive feeling from the audience. For example; the times they clapped, or the times that they were silent and thoughtful.

This map will show the reality of your talk. Far more than any wishful thinking from your memory, or the simple acknowledgments from your friends.

And despite your well-laid plans, questions, interruptions – or inspiration can take your training session off course.

If you’re presenting outdoors, the weather may change things.

If you’re inside and the air conditioning gets too cold, it might upset people.

All the ‘external’ factors have an impact, and you have to realize that your students are going to judge you.

Critics are what you need, every presentation you give. In the right size audience – give them a feedback sheet.

This helps you keep your feet on the ground when you speak to 2000 people and get a standing ovation. And it will keep you hungry to do better when you speak to 10 people in your home town.

Don’t give 2000 people a sheet when you’re training at a conference for just 45 minutes. Instead ask them to go to a website and fill in a survey, or to simply tweet about the training using your particular # hashtag or @username.

Every presentation deserves good preparation, and every good presentation deserves critical honest feedback.

Because you want to get better. You want to improve.

Do you want to be the best? The very best? Time to bring in the big guns.

Get a Feedback Partner.

Plan to use someone, or multiple people who attend your training,  who will give you the feedback you want. Honest feedback. We are usually the most critical of ourselves, so we need to get people that will share with us their view of the presentation. And because we asked for the feedback – it will come in a way that we will accept it.

I believe there are two principles you need to consider when giving feedback.

First, it has to be honest.

If you have honesty, you have a basis from which to improve and grow.

You can find out what went well, and also find out that some areas should be replaced. Replaced with new habits, words, behaviors and body language.

But honesty is also important, because it is subjective, and taps into how your feedback partner feels about your talk. Your goal is to stimulate feelings in your audience, to get an emotional response, usually some form of action.

It is often the purpose of your training session to teach AND to motivate, inspire, or create emotional reactions.

So you want to know if that happened. And telling the truth – they will share how they felt about the talk. Not just what they heard or saw.

Listen most closely to the feedback that is based on how they feel. This will give you key moments in your talk that will be pivotal to you taking your talk from good… too great!

If emotion is stirred up, you need to listen again and again to the words you used at that time. What triggered it. And listen to how you led up to that point. There should be some sort of warning that something powerful is coming or something key. Important.

This is the part of your session to repeat again and again – assuming you want that emotion in your audience! You want to mimic it, copy it word for word and repeat just the way that it worked the first time. After a few performances, you’ll find that it comes out exactly the same every time. And this will begin to give you mastery of emotions in your training.

Second, feedback should be compassionate.

Feedback for its own sake is often a critical person’s greatest weapon in attacking. Its the tool for removing confidence and for creating self-doubt.

This is why a feedback partner must be willing to be compassionate.

Because the purpose is always to build the speaker up. Helping them learn what they can do to be better – feedback is never about tearing a person down.

Compassion is the willingness to look at another person and care about them when you communicate with them when you think of them. In this instant, when you are getting feedback on the most sensitive of topics. When we give a presentation where we may have pushed our own comfort zone. It’s risky to share personal beliefs, key ideas, or open up to criticism of our skill or expertise.

The Human Ego is sensitive and will revert to defense as its form of attack if it feels threatened. This is why compassion is a place that every feedback partner needs to share from.

When I give feedback to a trainer, it is often direct. But its always about what happened, the words spoken – never about the person. And because they asked me to give it!

The person is there in my class because they want to be better – not because they’re a bad person. So the process of learning and growing in this skill area demands honest and compassionate feedback so that the giver feels as safe as the receiver.

If the Ego rises up and attacks the person giving the feedback, it’s the last they’ll get.

If they sit, listen and accept the feedback (they asked for) in the light of those two key principles, they will have the greatest potential for improvement.

Think for a minute about yourself. How do you feel when you are attacked for sharing your opinion? Does it make you more or less willing to continue sharing? Of course, you know that you had to give feedback – but it’s natural for people to want good feedback only, so never give feedback unless the recipient has agreed to honesty and compassion.

You won’t need to justify your statements then, no excuses, you can be direct and be a great resource for your friend or colleague.

It’s never empowering to give feedback after saying “I hope you don’t mind me saying, but…” – because the brain will focus on the negative immediately.

Get the ground rules up front and then you’ll find its easy to give the feedback.

And the reason I want you to consider this is because one of the best ways to be a good speaker, is to be a good student and critic. Be the person that analyses presentations, and write down your feedback, honestly and compassionately.

Give it directly to the speaker, if they are willing to hear it.

Always frame it in the conversation before you share with them, that you are doing this to be a better speaker. Let them know that because you are a student, you wanted to share feedback with them.

Most speakers love the feedback, and you will share the things you liked and the things you loved… This helps them to get better.

None of us are perfect, so it’s a powerful tool to help us notice how our audience sees us.

Sometimes we forget to finish a story, feedback will help.

Sometimes we look at the left of the audience the whole time – because of bright light on the other side – we need to be reminded.

Sometimes our volume isn’t as loud as it should be. Getting told this from the audience is always good.

Because all good speakers spent time analyzing and critiquing other speakers when they started.

To help make them better.

So volunteer to be a feedback partner today – and get some for yourself as well. 3 or 4 is good, so you will always get a variety of feedback. Later in the book, there is a checklist for giving feedback. Just to help you put thoughts into ‘ratings’ as well as key questions to trigger feedback if people are a bit slow bringing it forward.

  • Mark Davis

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