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Make the Most of the Feedback You Get

In the weeks following your presentation, you will gain access to feedback from your attendees. Reading their feedback and using it as a foundation for future presentations is a critical step in your evolution as a presenter. Even seasoned speakers can learn from attendees. Try to avoid framing the evaluation as criticism. Instead, consider it a blueprint for your next presentation.

As you review your evaluation, zero in on the areas that attendees targeted for improvement. Use the sections below to find practical advice for improving your next presentation in each evaluation area.

Session Content

Presented as described in the abstract: Consider your abstract a roadmap to your presentation. While writing, clearly articulate your intended points and the basic details of your project or initiative. Set clear and tangible expectations for what participants will walk away with (a new understanding of how to use technology in the profession; a practical model for implementation on campus; just-in-time resources surrounding a hot topic, etc.). Before your presentation, review the abstract to ensure your intended remarks clearly reflect your original intent.

Organized in logical, coherent way: Consider your presentation a story that you are sharing with colleagues. As such, your presentation should follow a clear arc. Articulate your key points up front and then reinforce them throughout the presentation. As you conclude, remind your participants of the central ideas or lessons you hope they have learned.

Key points supported with breadth and depth: Write down your central points as you begin planning and ensure your presentation addresses each in detail. Consider asking colleagues to listen to your presentation and then jot down what they perceive to be your key points. Use their feedback to revamp or revise your presentation.

Clearly stated significance of project/area of work that points to future use: Ask yourself the following as you create your presentation: Why is this topic critical for others to hear about? What do I hope others will take away from my presentation? While it's critical to establish your own credibility and to share your campus prospective, think about ways to frame your message so that others can learn and build from it. Make it applicable to institutions of different sizes and types.

Appropriate selection of resources/handouts: Avoid creating handouts that simply list a plethora of links, readings, and websites. Select key resources for attendees to find further information; avoid the trap of "more is more." Consider annotating the list, clearly articulating what the resource covers and who might find it useful.

Session Delivery

Knowledge of topic: Clearly and briefly introduce your background and expertise in the topic area at the start of your presentation. As you plan your remarks, ensure your content provides an introduction to novices while achieving the right level of depth to reflect your knowledge and experience. Consider practicing your presentation with colleagues and asking them afterwards what lingering questions they have and whether they feel they have received all relevant information to move forward.

Engaged the audience: Seek opportunities to include your participants in the conversation through polls, question-and-answer periods, or small group discussion. Consider asking—through a show of hands or polling tool like PollEverywhere—how their campus compares to yours. Ask about their familiarity with the topic or tools introduced and periodically break for questions rather than waiting until the end. John Medina argues that the audience can only absorb content in 10–15 minute chunks. Use that knowledge as a guidepost and stop every 10–15 minutes to engage your audience.

Clearly introduced and reinforced key points: Presenters often focus on their slide design then move on to their remarks. Take a few moments when you begin planning to clearly outline your key points. As you build your presentation, ensure that every slide reflects that emphasis; each slide should be a part of the cause, not unrelated filler. Articulate your key points up front and return to them at the conclusion of your presentation.

Effectively used slides/visuals to organize and display content: Avoid creating slide with bullet points that simply mirror your planned remarks. Instead, use your slides and other visuals as a canvas to reinforce key points, illustrate key concepts, or demonstrate ideas through visuals, graphs, or animations. Your slides should contain a minimal amount of information; more detailed resources and notes can be conveyed through handouts or uploaded resources.

Allowed sufficient time for Q&A: Question-and-answer sessions can offer a critical opportunity to take the pulse of the room and ensure your participants are grasping key points. Plan for your presentation to take a portion of your allotted time and allow time for question-and-answer periods. Consider asking a member of your audience to give you a visual cue when you have 15 minutes left in your session time.

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