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3 helpful ways to give feedback on a presentation

When you discuss these 3 things, you help someone else take their presentation to the next level.

3 helpful ways to give feedback on a presentation
[Photo: Miguel Henriques/Unsplash]

How many times has your coworker, your boss, or your friend asked you, “How was my presentation?”

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Chances are, if you thought the presentation was boring, you said, “great job” with a flat tone. If you thought it was actually great, you said, “great job!” with an enthusiastic tone. After all, giving someone feedback about their presentation is a delicate act. You don’t want to provide feedback that upsets them, but you know that flattery isn’t going to turn them into a better speaker. So how can you give feedback that makes a difference without risking hurt feelings?

Here are three ways you can give your teammate feedback about their presentation that inspires improvement, whether it’s from okay to good, or from very good to excellent.

1) Discuss what was memorable

Begin your feedback by telling your presenter what you found memorable about his or her presentation. This takes your feedback to big-picture level, which is much more effective than providing granular comments. Your presenter probably has no memories of  their behavior at any particular moment, so feedback on details won’t get them very far. For example, in our Ted Talk Tips, we direct you to look at a particular moment in the talker’s presentation. Unless the talker was a highly trained orator or had meticulously rehearsed their presentation, they would have no conscious memory of exactly how they moved. They wouldn’t know what foot they were standing on, or the precise moment that they made that gesture.

Rather than giving feedback about particular moments or habits, you should describe what was most memorable to you. This way, you’re providing feedback at a level that helps the presenter understand their dominant message. If you tell them that what you remember the most was their passion, their conviction, or their idea, you’re helping your speaker focus on the big takeaway. You’ll inspire creative behavior, not obsessional adjustment.

2) Discuss the key message

If you tell your speaker, “I thought your key message was X,” you’re opening up the door to the most critical part of the presentation–what the message was, and not what the data, graphs, or charts were. In business today, presentations are not just PowerPoint parades. It doesn’t matter if you’re presenting to high-level executives or a group of interns, your talk needs to have meaning. It has to show how you think and how you synergize data into meaningful messages that have relevance and impact on the business.

By giving your presenter feedback about their key message, you are helping your presenter position their ideas at the right level, for the right audience. You’re not telling them what to do in a robotic way–you’re challenging them to align their thinking to their situation. You want to help them increase their impact, not wordsmith their speaking notes.

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3) Share when you started to tune out?

No matter how much good intention you have, you’ll inevitably tune out, occasionally at best, frequently at worst. Of course, you could blame yourself or feel ashamed, but that’s a dead end. A more productive route would be to think about why you tuned out at that particular moment. Were there too many details? Was i too monotone? Too irrelevant?

When you pinpoint and share the moment that you disengaged, you identify a problem you had. You’re inviting your speaker to think about solutions to the problem–you’re not telling them what to do. Even better, you’re focusing your teammate’s attention on connecting with their audience versus getting through the material.

So, next time your colleague asks you, “What did you think about my presentation?” don’t just bite your tongue and say “great!” When you discuss the things set out in this article, you’re help your coworker become a better speaker. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two about how to improve your own presentation.

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About the author

Anett Grant is the CEO of Executive Speaking, Inc. and the author of the new e-book, CEO Speaking: The 6-Minute Guide. Since 1979, Executive Speaking has pioneered breakthrough approaches to helping leaders from all over the world--including leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies--develop leadership presence, communicate complexity, and speak with precision and power

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