This is a guest post from Fiona Whitehead, Expansion Lead at General Assembly,a pioneer in education and career transformation, specialising in today’s most in-demand skills.
Any trainer knows, it’s not easy to get positive feedback across the board. Sometimes, it’s a challenge just to get people to give feedback in the first place, and it’s important to gather as much feedback possible. Not only will it help you improve the quality of your next workshop, you may even get some terrific ideas for another class.
Use the following tips and tricks to increase the feedback response rate of your attendees and to receive even better feedback ratings.
To help make sure you receive as much feedback possible:
1. Get your students’ feedback while they’re still in the room
At General Assembly London workshops, we waste no time collecting feedback. Students are less likely to provide feedback once they’ve left the room. So, while their seats are still warm, we remind them to fill out our quick paper survey at the end of class. They’re usually happy to reciprocate, since we’ve just provided them with a thought-provoking workshop. Plus, it’s harder for them to rush out of the room when they see other attendees scribbling away.
2. A short, well-written feedback form works best
This one may seem obvious, but definitely worth including. Whether you’re asking for feedback online or on paper, keep your form short, simple, and relaxed in tone. Shakespeare had it right, “brevity is the soul of wit”. And if you’re using paper, size is important – A5 seems unobtrusive, whereas a full A4 sheet might be intimidating in length.
3. Introduce your survey right from the start
In your introduction at the beginning of the workshop, let your attendees know that you’ll be asking for their feedback at the end, and explain how it helps you prepare even better content in future. This way, requesting feedback seems like less of an afterthought, and also prepares your students for this to be asked of them at the end.
Now that you’re collecting more feedback, take these six steps to help ensure it’s positive.
1. Make a good first impression
It may sound cliché, but first impressions are always important. Being friendly right from the get-go sets the tone of the workshop and ensures people feel welcome. Say “Hi” to each attendee as they arrive, introduce yourself, check they know where to get coffee or where the restrooms are. This helps to avoid any awkward silences and sets attendees at ease as they file in.
2. Find out why your attendees are there
Take five minutes at the beginning of your workshop to do a quick pulse-check of the room – have each attendee take a minute to stand up, introduce him or herself, and share what he or she is looking to get out of your session. (Even better: ask this question at the point an attendee purchases tickets). You might not be able to hit every single one of their asks in your session, but this still gives you the chance to tailor your class to your attendees, even on the fly.
3. Get your attendees talking
Get your attendees talking to and engaging with each other. Not only does it help break the ice, but students will learn from the experiences of their fellow classmates. Give them the opportunity to brainstorm with each other in pairs or small groups, and even switch up groups throughout the day if that works with your classes’ format. The more convivial the atmosphere, the better the feedback will likely be. It also gives your students a chance to network with one another.
4. Back-to-school essentials
As a trainer, you’ll always want to provide the most worthwhile content possible in the most digestible format. Some useful lessons our General Assembly faculty have taught us:
Use real-life examples. Your attendees have come to hear from you, the professional, and they’ll want to know how you have dealt with situations or clients in your working life.
Be clear with your agenda, and throughout your class make certain to link back to how each section of your workshop relates to or builds on the previous section (or to your last workshop if it’s a series). Adult learners often need this to help understand the value of what they’re learning.
Finally, after your workshop, be sure to provide a resources list and actionable tips that your attendees can start using right away.
5. Explain how feedback works
Briefly explain the importance of feedback and how it works, especially if you are grading yourself against the Net Promoter Score (NPS). And if you’re using NPS, it might be worth explaining to your students how 7s and 8s out of 10 signify that an attendee felt passive about a session. This can be a little contentious, and perhaps may seem like cheating. But with NPS, cultural differences often apply. For example, it’s fairly common in the UK for someone to rate a class 8/10 even when they’ve thoroughly enjoyed a session.
6. Take some feedback with a pinch of salt
It’s not unheard of for a trainer to read all their feedback forms and find that everyone is saying something different, or even giving opposing views! The old saying ‘you can’t please everyone’ often holds true. What’s more, there are those attendees who will never give ten out of ten, even if they loved everything about your workshop – I’ve seen this written on a feedback form more than once!
After a certain point, don’t beat yourself up too much. You’ve done an amazing thing, putting together a workshop and sharing your expertise with others. Learn what you can from the feedback, iterate for the next session then put those forms away and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!
Fiona Whitehead | @fiwhitehead
Fiona Whitehead, Expansion Lead at General Assembly, has run the London campus’ workshops business since October 2014. In this time, GA has more than doubled the number of workshops run per quarter, and the average workshop net promoter score has risen 30%. Recently, her role has grown to include the support of General Assembly’s expansion efforts throughout the UK and Europe. A former Asia expat, Fiona also has a passion for fitness and baked treats (not necessarily in that order).