“Feedback” is a concept that everybody finds simple to understand and therefore simple to use. However, it is not always clear for everybody how to use it properly and while some might be under the impression that they figured it out, there is evidence to the contrary.
Understood as a reaction, the purpose of a feedback is to characterise. It may be requested after a presentation, after a training and after any kind of public manifestation that can improve itself if helped by the audience’s opinions. Even though it may sound pretty basic or simple, the complications appear when the public or an individual who wants to give a feedback focuses on the wrong direction.
For example, if a feedback is requested after a training, a part of the audience would be tempted to talk about the trainer. And while the trainer is, indeed, part of the entire equation, the focus should be on the presentation itself and on the effect it had. So, what a trainer should do in this kind of situations is to guide the “audience” and explain that the needed feedback should reflect the received information, its accuracy and the impact it had.
Sometimes, a feedback can be confused with an advice. For example, if a trainer asks “How did you find this class?” and the answers are given as advices such as “I would’ve focused more on….” or “It would’ve been more (…) if (….)”, then the feedback is irrelevant. Because, even though opinions were expressed, offering a feedback should describe an effect, be it positive of negative, and the effect should not be synonym with a piece of advice.
From a piece of advice to a praise or criticism there is only a small step. For instance, if a trainer asks “How high would you rate the second class compared to the first one?” and the answer would be a reflection of how the trainer gave the presentation, then the feedback is, again, irrelevant. The proper answer that would help the trainer and therefore improve the classes should be “5/5 compared to 3/5”, for example. This would be enough for the trainer to make an objective comparison between the courses. And this comparison should reflect the quality and the effect of the presentation. It should not reflect the qualities of the trainer.
So, if a trainer asks for a feedback, it’s more than important for him to be specific and to make it as clear as possible through precise questions that the feedback must, first of all, reflect the characteristics of the presentation and its outcome. Also, it must be made clear that a relevant feedback should be objective and only mention neutral markers of description, and not criticism or praise.
If all these points are made clear, the trainer will be able make a complete and detailed analysis of the class and, if necessary, work on improving it.