Feedback is tricky
Me: The overall flow of the presentation is excellent. But I felt you took time to reach the crux of the presentation topic. I know it is essential to set the stage, but does it make sense to reduce the time taken for setting the stage? The audience might have to come to the talk to hear more about the topic — security — and delaying on that may lose the audiences’ attention.
Vinay: I took this approach after hearing the feedback from a few other experts. I know the topic — security — is important, but I want to set the stage and make people understand the real issue. It has become such a buzzword now, and that is all the more reason to set the stage rightly. So don’t think rushing makes sense.

The above is a conversation I had while reviewing a conference presentation. You can see Vinay (name changed) became defensive with my feedback. There is a possibility that he is right; he firmly believes he is right. It might also be because Vinay got contradictory feedback from someone. And now he is slightly confused about what to do.

In summary, Vinay didn’t agree with my feedback. As a giver of the feedback, I should be okay with that, ideally.

Below are two different feedback I received from after my talk:

1. I felt you spoke fast. I understood the point might be because I am familiar with the topics. Those who are not familiar may not have got it.
2. I never knew Branch by abstraction, I learned it from the talk. The flow and pace of the presentation were perfect. Thank you.

Contradictory feedback :). I have the option to agree or disagree with the same.

All of us know that feedback is necessary. Your product, your writing of presentation or between team members, everything improves with the right feedback.

But how can we make it useful? Sadly, there is no silver lining, other than guidelines. Here are a few things that I learned (still learning), from the book What did you say? The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback. This checklist is applicable for both receiver and giver.

  • Avoid judging, be curious instead—For example, if I had asked Vinay — why so — maybe the conversation would have taken to a different level.
  • Be observant and understanding — Present with verifiable observations and be empathetic with the difficulties the receiver has while trying to understand the feedback
  • No compulsion — The giver should accept that the other person may or may not accept your input. And for the receiver, there is no compulsion to implement the suggestions. It is optional.

The checklist is great, but the difficulty is keeping this mind while receiving or giving feedback. That takes practice :).

Here is a detailed review of the book: