On Session Evaluations

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As PASS Summit approaches this week, I’m re-reviewing my evaluations from SQL Saturday Boston and I’d like to give feedback about feedback.

Why Feedback?

Both speakers and event organizers depend upon getting feedback about every session delivered at SQL Saturday, Data Saturday, PASS Summit, or any of the user groups (in-person or virtual). This feedback is valuable to speakers and event organizers alike.

  • For speakers, it helps us understand if we’re doing OK when we’re in front of the room, but more importantly we want to know what we can do better.
  • For event organizers, it’s helpful in understanding what content attendees want to see. As a former event organizer and user group leader, I’ve even used that feedback to say “hey, we should invite this person to speak at a future meeting.”

Ratings on a scale of 1-5 are okay, but when you’re looking at product reviews on Amazon you aren’t just look at the stars, are you? The written reviews are what matter most when you’re making a decision about garden hoses or cheese graters. This is your opportunity to tell the speaker what works in their presentation and what doesn’t. This is information that can’t be conveyed via 4 stars or an emoji. We need actionable feedback.

Feedback Received

Looking at my own evaluations for Boston, they were overall good, much better than I was expecting given how I was feeling about the session 48 hours beforehand. But I only received one evaluation form that had anything written in the “What can the speaker do to improve” section.

Maybe a little more time for Q&A

And the person who gave me this feedback is absolutely, 100 percent correct. I had about 57 minutes of material for a one-hour session. I would have loved to do some Q&A and having that feedback, I have confirmation that I need to streamline things.

Call to Action

As you head into PASS Summit this week, please be sure to give each speaker two things when you fill out the session evaluations

  1. One valuable thing you took away from their session - whether it’s specific to the session content or a new way of presenting material or approaching a problem that you hadn’t seen before
  2. One thing the speaker can do better next time - whether it’s something you were hoping to learn but didn’t, or an improvement to the delivery of the material. But remember, this needs to be polite, professional, constructive feedback.

This should take less than 5 minutes to complete for each session. The person up on stage has spent dozens of hours preparing for this event, and they’re always looking to improve. Getting this feedback is critical to improving as a speaker.