Feedback on feedback

SXSW has released their Honor Roll” for 2006 and “How to Bluff Your Way in DOM Scripting” managed to make it pretty darn close to the top. I had no idea there was such a thing, but apparently audience feedback is tallied and the sessions are graded and then ranked. I’m pretty proud of our 4.69 “GPA” too — it put us solidly in the Top 10. The two other sessions I participated in (“Web Standards & Search Engines” and “Web Standards & SEO”) also garnered some respectable scores (4.01 and 4.06 respectively) and made the list.

My co-presenters/panelists all did an incredible job (Andy, Ed, Eric, Jeremy, Molly, Peter, and Tim: my hat is off to you), but my greatest thanks goes out to everyone who took the time not only to to come to our sessions, but to provide us with feedback on them as well.

The feedback provided by an audience is invaluable. I know it’s sometimes annoying to fill out those comment cards (especially when you’re racing to get a seat at the next session), but it is those very comment card that help us hone our skills as speakers/presenters/teachers. Your feedback is what makes us better the next time around. Seriously, it means a lot — evenespecially criticism.

When developing a session, you write the description to capture the essence of the talk and (hopefully) set expectations for the depth and breadth of coverage, but you’re never sure just how that will be interpreted by attendees. The only way you can know how successful you were at planning, describing and giving the presentation is by receiving audience feedback. That’s why it is so crucial.

To me, a session is a success when the majority of the feedback tells me

  1. I didn’t lose anybody, and
  2. people learned something.

But it’s hard to strike that balance too. You never really know the audience’s comfort level, especially on the more technical or programming-related topics. That said, you do know you’ve hit the mark (at least for most people) when you receive feedback like this:

Great breakdown of concepts…

…interesting to even an experienced DOM coder

Broke down things to a real level…

…well organized and not so deep that beginners would get lost

Great/useable content that we can take back to the office.

I’ve learned something useful today!

Thank you very much for all of your feedback and please keep on commenting.

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