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Tired of presenters who miss the mark? Show them what they’ll be evaluated on!

Last week I sat with a colleague, walking through her line-up of speakers for an upcoming conference. She asked if I had any suggestions to help the presenters deliver more effective presentations.

It’s an age-old, intractable question. Do conference speakers (or consultants who may come into your organization to train your staff on one specific topic) really care?  

I honestly think they do, although I also think they’re busy people and even if they knew exactly how to engage their audience (which they often don’t), they have limited time to allocate to creating better presentations.

I know that when I present at conferences, I really want to give my audience a good experience. The thing that I dread, however, is the post-conference email from the organizers – the email that includes evaluation scores. Did they like me? Did they like my presentation??

I want high scores. I want to be seen as having offered my audience what they needed. These evaluation scores, however, are not something I think about until that post-conference email.

Whether we’re bringing in a slate of speakers for a conference, or if we’re just bringing in a consultant to train people in our organization on a specific topic, what if we sent them the evaluation form we’d be using in advance? It’d be a little like giving out exam questions a week before an exam – in theory, it should lead to better performance and results. Especially if you’re asking the right questions – questions about how engaging the session was, questions about whether there were opportunities for practice and getting feedback, questions about job aids. It puts the presenter “on notice” when it comes to what you’re expecting out of his or her session.

Here is a pdf file of an evaluation form I used recently, based upon Will Thalheimer’s book: Performance-focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Re-thinking of a Dangerous Artform.

Evaluation Form Sample

What do you think about distributing the evaluation form to speakers before they speak in front of your organization or conference?


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