Your Comments are Always Welcome

Here’s one I just have to share. A while ago I co-presented at a conference. Seemed to go well enough. People paid attention; applauded at the end; generally laughed at the appropriate spots. A few people came up at the end looking for more information. There were compliments to my co-presenter and me on how well it went. All in all, it added up to be the kind of feedback which would allow you to infer that, even if you weren’t lights out, at least you didn’t stink up the podium. 

(Here’s a quick aside that has nothing to do with anything – but since I’m in a sharing mood…. A number of years ago this same co-presenter [Paulette Keller, if you really want to know – my co-author for Business Process Mapping] and I were giving our very first conference presentation. We sat in the audience during the session before ours just getting a feel for the room - just trying to get ready. The gentleman giving that presentation was in a very difficult situation. He had great material, but he was not the planned speaker. A lot of reading from notes, a lot of hesitations, a lot of the things that would make anyone panic. Again, none of this the presenter’s fault – he was doing as well as anyone possibly could. But, Paulette and I watched as the crowd slowly snuck out of the room. By the end, half the room of about 150 people had left.  We have always used that as a benchmark – as long as half the room doesn’t leave, then the presentation is a success.)
A month or so after our presentation (the one I was speaking of in the first paragraph, not the presentation I was speaking about in the aside) we got the survey results. I know a lot of people blow off the completion of these surveys – they either don’t worry about the survey or just throw out some numbers and go on with their lives. But I’m here to tell you that presenters and organizers take those ratings and comments very seriously.
And, for some strange reason, I really enjoy getting that feedback. I go through the comments quite closely because it is when people are the most genuine. After a presentation, few people will tell you what they really think. But in that survey – whoo boy! I will say, generally, people are fairly positive; but they are also quite honest. And that is the kind of information that can help anyone. Of course, if it is just negative without any real substance I’ll ignore it. However, if it is genuinely constructive criticism, I’ll use it to help make future presentations better. And every word of positive reinforcement just reinforces my already overly-reinforced ego.
So, I quickly jumped into the meat of the survey.   There were some comments that were complimentary (“feed little ego, feed, feed”), some comments about how warm the room was (nothing I could do), and one or two comments with some decent suggestions. And then I was stopped short by what one person felt worth sharing:
“Jacka’s not as funny as he thinks he is.”
There was about two seconds of silence, and then I broke out laughing. Constructive? Not really. From the heart? Probably. Anything worth taking away? A great reminder that you just can’t please some people.
You see, that is the one of the keys to speaking/presenting/talking/working. You can’t please everyone. To anyone who has to talk in front of people or speak in front of people or write a report in front of people or interview people or do any of the myriad things we auditors have to do in front of people, it is important to remember that you can spend forever trying to second-guess the opinions people will have about the things that you do. But you really only have one audience member that must be kept happy – yourself. Do your tasks with what you consider the right amount of professionalism, do your tasks with what you consider the right amount of work, do your tasks with what you consider to be the right amount of seriousness, do your tasks with what you consider to be the right amount of fun, and do your tasks the way you want to do them.
And, of course I’m not as funny as I think I am; no one could be that funny. But I’m doing it the way I want to. That is the only way I know to do my job. And that is the only way anyone should do any job.
Now, if only the rest of the world would get my jokes.

Posted on Nov 27, 2011 by Mike Jacka

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