Presentation Hack: Receiving Feedback

Last week, I moderated a four (4)-hour workshop on Emotional Intelligence. The audience was 27 police sergeants from across Illinois, as part of a three (3)-week college-level course on supervision. I previously knew one (1) attendee.

Today, I received a composite evaluation from the organization that hired me. It combines all the responses into a single document. I paste it here in entirety, in italics:


-       N/A (12)
-       Dynamic, engaging
-       Speaker knew the topic very well but did not present it well
-       He was clear, concise, and engaging
-       Great class and instructors
-       He appeared comfortable in front of the room and was interesting

2. What did you like best about this class? Please elaborate.

-       Class participation, interesting topic
-       Relatability. Conversational.
-       The class interaction was good-not great
-       I enjoyed have enjoyed more hands-on instruction.
-       It was very interactive
-       Class participation
-       The class was primary group discussion. Always kept students engaged.
-       Good ways to recognize and (illegible) situations
-       The topic. This kind of thing does not get talked about enough in this job.
-       N/A
-       The format of the course, building instead of structured is very helpful in allowing people to flesh-out their thoughts.
-       Class participation was good.
-       The professional vs. the caveman concept
-       The class was a lot of open discussion which is helpful for a new supervisor because its more real-world info then textbook.
-       I liked the open discussion about the topic. I feel it was the mist interactive class we have had.
-       Instructor seemed like a regular guy
-       Good sense of humor
-       All of the information presented can be of an enormous value. I would be interested in further classes highlighting its application.

3. What did you like least about this class? Please elaborate.

-       No videos—1st break was 1.5 hours after presentation began. On several occasions it appeared he did not know where he was going with presentation. Everything hinged on class participation.
-       The unstructured approach of letting the class responses dictate the flow of learning did not solidify the material in my mind.
-       The speaker’s presentation of the topic was not good. The awkward silences made things uncomfortable.
-       I would have enjoyed more hands-on instruction.
-       N/A (4)
-       No videos, and you know when the instructor was looking for a different answer
-       Hit the same points over and over
-       Lack of structure. Lots of bouncing around, but this may be a beneficial thing.
-       Not long enough
-       More information would be nice in note form.
-       The class was too long for the concept or the pace was too slow.
-       I think we have really established a clear direction during the day. We didn’t talk my long about how to apply EQ as a leader.
-       At times I kind of felt lost, wasn’t sure on the direction of the class.
-       The instructor started before 1pm, the expected start time and went past the expected end time 5pm. Did not cover all material.
-       Many of the questions asked by the instructor were very general, what do you think about this? For ex, I was not sure where the instruction was going with this and what he wanted the class to get out of it.

4. How likely are you to utilize the information provided in this class? Please elaborate.

-       Emotional intelligence is on the rise in training circles. Interested in getting more info.
-       Somewhat. The intuitive lessons regarding the caveman vs the professor, instincts vs intuition.
-       Speakers topic is relevant to the job
-       I would like to utilize the down, sub, union, comfortable model on my shift. I’d like to elevate where they stand, and myself.
-       I may use some of it.
-       I will utilize the information provided. EQ is a very important factor in life and the job. Focusing on the left of (illegible) to award the (illegible) is huge.
-       I will use this philosophy lessons learned when speaking to subordinates.
-       Likely to utilize information. Staying left of bag is good concept.
-       Very. Having knowledge and use of this information can only broaden the views of people and that is better than thinking narrowly.
-       N/A
-       Very. Being able to identify and put into effect the pillars of emotional intelligence will help make better. More well-rounded police officers and lead to better interactions with the public.
-       Very, start thinking like the other person may.
-       Gives me understanding on the dismissive, subjective, uncomfortable, comfortable categories.
-       A lot of information on how to work with people inside and out of my department
-       I feel this is something everyone needs to apply all the time. I have time to apply this in my life and will continue to do so.
-       Will take it into consideration
-       Not likely
-       When needing to talk to an employee, calling that employee to (illegible) officer can be very (illegible) for that employee. I will apply the (illegible) approach to minimize the others on that employee.

5. Do you have any suggestions for improvement to this class?

-       Break sooner. —PowerPoint presentation
-       If lecture is going to be unstructured, make handouts more comprehensive so they can be reviewed later for a full understanding of the material
-       More video on topic
-       N/A (10)
-       Longer format
-       Faster pace
-       State initial direction of class, and follow it.
-       See above
-       The information regarding the behavior clusters were useful and could have been elaborated on more.

I own this feedback. It's mine.

This is very useful for me. It's probably some of the most well-thought out and elaborated feedback that I've been given. It not only took time and effort for the attendees to write the answers, but took time for the hiring organization to combine them into a single document to share with me. What I would have liked is to see how individuals answered the questions; how might someone who answered one (1) question also answered another question. Regardless, this is gold.

It's clear that the class was split on how they felt about the free-flow, unstructured format. 

Some expressed they were lost -- or felt that I was lost. Actually, I didn't feel lost at all. I thought the flow was actually quite smooth.

At least one (1) person thought the pace of the class was too slow -- which I felt odd given that it felt to me like it was over in the blink of an eye!

At least one (1) person wanted a sooner class break.

A few folks wanted PowerPoint or videos. I purposely limited my number of projected slides. I used probably less than five (5) slides, with a grand total of just as many words. My vision was to whiteboard when appropriate, but keep conversation going and open.

If any complaint really boils to the surface in this evaluation, it involves a perceived lack of direction. That's the theme that will likely stick with me: How can I better merge a sense of direction but still allow for class participation? How can I ask open-ended general questions without seeming like I'm fishing for a particular answer? How can I allow students to steer the conversation but not look lost myself?

What is my favorite reply?

What did you like least about this class? Lack of structure. Lots of bouncing around, but this might be a beneficial thing. 

I think this person is on the verge of understanding what I'm trying to accomplish and how I'm trying to get there.

Feedback is great. But only if we learn from it. I can't let it give me a big head...or send me into a deep depression. They spent the time to offer their thoughts. Now it's up to me to figure out how to use it for growth and learning.


Aside from writing on a variety of topics, I publish a column of blog posts under the label Presentation Hack. Check them out for ideas, tips, and tricks to better public speaking or classroom experiences!


Lou Hayes, Jr. is a criminal investigations & intelligence unit supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. With a passion for training, he studies human performance & decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability. Follow Lou on Twitter at @LouHayesJr or on LinkedInHe also maintains a LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model.


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