Rory touches upon a sensitive area in his post about customer feedback. Although I hesitate a little in criticizing my customers/audience (I might end up with very bad scores on my future evaluations) I would like to add some of my own experiences.
First some personal positive experiences (to give some counter balance to the second part of this post):
- The more technical the content of my presentation, the higher the appreciation of my audience. This might be completely caused by me feeling secure about technical stuff but also by the expectations of my audience. The weirder the bit-flips and byte-summersaults the faster an overall togetherness of nerdy geekness is revealed. Let’s call this the ‘gathering of the nerds’.
- The more relaxed I am during a presentation, the more appropriate the questions from the audience during my talk. Of course, when I answer these questions correctly an overall contentness seems to settle down in the room. Let’s call this the ‘cozy safety’.
Now some negatives (I have to be careful here because I don’t want to give the false impression that my assessments are awful)
- Every audience has a ‘front-row-bug’. Someone who will, given the opportunity, comment on every sentence you utter. These can get really annoying especially when the presentation is longer than one hour. It’s not just me that gets annoyed; many times I see the rest of the audience shake their heads as soon as he starts to talk. Now the good part of the headshaking is that the headshakers will support you when you spray your first can of bug repellent. The bad part is that they are not listening anymore to the content of my lecture. Worse case: everybody starts to enjoy the fight…
- Every audience has a ‘spin-doctor’. Someone who makes statements that appear to be questions. I suspect these medicine men being busy profiling themselves or (worse) envious of my position. For me the best way of dealing with these campaigners is to silence them with an acknowledgement ranging from a polite “how very interesting” to a more offensive and confronting “Right, so what is your actual question?”
- Every audience has a ‘back-stabber’. Someone who will seem very positive in attitude and utterings(even when explicitly asked for his opinion) but who will trash you and the presentation in the formal evaluation. I counter these Brutus’s upfront: I always ask my audience to give feedback during the presentation. Then again: if Julius couldn’t stop this fatal attack, who am I to think I could…
As you might have noticed: the bad guys are ‘guys’. My average audience hasn’t got that many women. The ones I have encountered (mostly in courses) were my best allies in fighting the baddies. Many times they bring balance to the man-world.
So, Rory, here is my advice: get more computer-ladies in your audience. Even when they do not get rid of the naggers, the overall atmosphere will benefit greatly!