Welcome to our September 2015 newsletter: Giving and receiving feedback 

Feedback is an integral part of Econnect’s work – whether we’re seeking it about our own work, or recommending our clients think about how to get it for their own communication strategies, for instance.

Indeed, it’s so important that, along with ‘adaptability’, it creates the principle of ‘relevance’: second on the list of ‘principles essential for quality science communication’ from the Inspiring Australia framework for science engagement.

This month we’re sharing some tips on giving, and asking for, feedback.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch via Facebook, Twitter oremail.

Regards from the @EconnectTeam,

Jenni Metcalfe, Mary O’Callaghan, Sarah Cole (this month’s newsletter editor), Jane Ilsley and guest contributor Toss Gascoigne.


Using a camera to give feedback on presentations

By Jenni Metcalfe

Some 25 years ago while working at CSIRO I was videoed giving a presentation.

When I looked back at the video I found, to my dismay, that I had been kicking the lectern with my left leg throughout the talk. I had been completely oblivious to this!

However, since that video I don’t think I have ever been guilty of making the same mistake, and that’s the power of using a camera to give people feedback on their presentations.

We use a video camera throughout our Presenting Science workshops for two reasons.

Firstly, like for me, when people see their own mannerisms or nervous habits, they are much more likely to be conscious of these habits and can then work to get rid of them.

Nerves can be good for speakers – they give a sense of energy to the audience – but speakers who are obviously nervous can make an audience feel uncomfortable. Video can reveal those signs of nerves which speakers can then work on to rid themselves of.

Typical habits we see from workshop participants are:

  • moving their feet a lot up the front (what we call the ‘scientist two-step’)
  • rubbing hands together (the ‘Lady Macbeth’)
  • standing uneasily (with one or both hands on hips – ‘the teapot’ or ‘double teapot’)
  • using too many ‘ums’
  • speaking too fast
  • repeating a word again and again (e.g. ‘basically’).

The second benefit of using a video camera in presentations is that, despite some signs of nerves, most people look better in front of an audience than they ever thought.

This can give our participants a level of confidence which they can build on, to become even better at standing in front of a live audience and presenting.

Media skills training in China. Copyright: Econnect Communication

What workshop participants say about getting feedback:

“Looking forward to seeing videos of my presentations – good idea!”
“The mock interviews with real journos and the constructive feedback was great! Also the audio and video recordings of ourselves we were given – great for reflection afterwards.”

Feedback from journalists and presenters in media skills workshops

By Toss Gascoigne

All participants at Econnect’s Talking Science to the Media workshops are interviewed by journalists from radio, TV and print.

The interviews are recorded, and at the end of each, participants are given feedback and advice from the journalist and the presenter.

Typically, feedback focuses on 6 areas:

  • You gave too much background. Get to the point quickly – often, this might be expressed as a problem and a solution.
  • Your language was too technical. Learn to explain your work (and its significance) in language a typical 12-year-old can understand.
  • You spoke in abstract terms. Give examples and analogies to help people ‘see’ the point you are trying to make.
  • You didn’t explain the appeal of your work for the average reader/listener/viewer. How will it make a difference to their life? Create jobs, reduce costs or improve the environment?
  • Your answers are too long (or too short). Don’t tell the whole story in a single answer; let it come out in the conversation. And too-short answers don’t give the journalist enough to work with.
  • You strayed away from the main points you wanted to make. Journalists might ask the wrong questions, so be prepared to steer them back to the focus of your work.

In giving feedback, presenters need to be disciplined. Participants appreciate a couple of quick tips, perhaps with an example, but not suggestions that imply a complete makeover is needed. Easy!

Media skills training in Addis Ababa. Copyright: Econnect Communication

Gaining useful feedback about our work

By Jane Ilsley

We are always looking at how to improve on the work that we do.

How we elicit feedback from people or organisations we work with depends on their preferences, and we’ve used many different methods.

Here is what I have found useful in gaining feedback from people we work with:

  • Online/emailed surveys give us some feedback, but most people will rate/say that they were happy. Surveys rarely elicit detailed or concrete ideas on things that might need to be improved.
  • Phone calls or face-to-face chats are the most useful for gaining detailed feedback – talking with someone can bring out things they might not think of if they’re working through an online survey or an email – and it allows me to probe and explore their answers.
  • A casual conversation to gain feedback is better (and easier to arrange) than a formal meeting.
  • An email or short call ahead of time to explain the purpose of the conversation gives them time to think of the kind of feedback they might give.

What feedback should a studio manager seek?

As Econnect’s studio manager, I’m looking for these 3 aspects of feedback. Below, I’ve also included some real feedback we’ve received:

  1. Was our communication to you timely? Did you have enough time to action what was needed throughout the project?

Example feedback we’ve received: “Timely communications, good quality workshops”; “It would have been good to meet the presenting team beforehand and to go through the agenda together.”

  1. Did you have all the information you needed through the project? Did you know what was going on?

For example: “Lots of great email communication as well as phone calls to ensure that expectations were clear”; “Some confusion at the start of the process about the scope and needs from our perspective.”

  1. Were you happy with the result? Did we meet your expectations? Would you recommend us to others or use us again?

For example: “Flexible, friendly, clear communications” ; “While we greatly appreciated your wordsmithing skills, we equally appreciated the calm, reasonable and reliable approach to the job.”

Editing or reviewing someone’s document: 3 tips

By Sarah Cole

I love to edit… to sink my fingers into a document and figure out how it could be re-shaped or tweaked to read better.

But editing or reviewing takes extra care and skill if someone else wrote the document.

Getting an author offside or making someone feel small guarantees they won’t come back for more, and increases the chance they won’t take on any feedback at all.

Copyright: Econnect Communication

When you give feedback during an edit/review, you can use these 3 elements to guide your comments and changes:

  1. THE WHY. It can be a lot easier to make a change if your author understands why a change might be useful.

An example of our comment to an author: “Try to avoid using acronyms in the headings; readers browsing a table of contents may not yet be familiar with the acronym, even if it is explained within the text.”

  1. THE WHAT. Don’t make it really difficult to take your feedback on board – where you can, suggest an alternative or two when you point out an issue, instead of dragging a [perhaps not-optimal] solution out of your author.

An example: “Consider changing the section heading from ‘Scenarios’ to ‘Industry development scenarios’ or ‘Industry expansion scenarios’.”

  1. THE HOW [MUCH]. Above all, your feedback should take into account the reader and project. How much time and effort can the author (and you) realistically put into the document? How much will a change or editing issuereally affect the readability of a document?

An example: “Will all readers be familiar with the equation here? If not, write a short paragraph explaining how it is used.”

Copyright © 2015 Econnect Communication Pty Ltd, All rights reserved.