Meeting planners will often give out speaker evaluations to determine what the audience thought of the speaker. It’s a way for them to gauge the effectiveness of the programs they’re putting together and how they can improve them in the future. For speakers, dealing with speaker evaluations can be stressful.

I remember with my first evaluation the other speakers went out of their way to let me know how much they liked it and one even pointed it out during his presentation. But when I got the feedback from the audience it was lukewarm at best. I had failed to put myself in the shoes of the audience.

I’ve had other ones where the audience was thrilled, but not the meeting planner, and ones where the management was excited, but the audience didn’t get it. Sometimes no matter how hard you try you won’t be able to please everybody.

The National Speaker’s Association asks their speakers to provide them with learning outcomes for their sessions, which they print in the program for the audience to compare against. They then ask the audience if those outcomes were met, what value they received from the presentation, and what takeaways they planned to implement themselves.

Toastmasters is a great training ground for speakers because you get constant feedback from your peers. Plus you can also learn from hearing feedback that other speakers get. Toastmasters is great for beginners because the feedback is both critical and encouraging. The feedback is simply an honest opinion of how the speech affects you personally and how it could be improved. Check out the Toastmasters Effective Evaluation Manual to learn more:

One of the best ways to get feedback is to run everything by a group of trusted people who will be critical, but helpful. This could be a group of speakers who are at least on your level, if not higher. But it doesn’t have to just be speakers. You won’t be talking to speakers in the room, so try to get an audience of regular people. Even better, find an audience similar to the one you’ll be speaking to and ask for their most critical advice.

You can’t take everything to heart, but if you see a pattern emerge from several different audience members you might want to work to improve it.