How to Capture Audience Feedback

By Heather Baldwin

One of the basic rules of great sales presentations is that you must involve your audience in the presentation – and a great way to do that is to use a flipchart to record audience feedback. Recording feedback is more than simply a matter of whipping out a permanent marker and starting to write, however, says Robert William Lucas, author of The Big Book of Flip Charts (McGraw-Hill, 2000). To effectively capture audience responses to your questions, he suggests following these four tips.

1. Write down people’s exact words. To paraphrase what they said without their permission, or buy-in, suggests you have a preconceived answer that you really want recorded, or that you devalue their thoughts. Furthermore, writing down anything other than their exact words could change their intended meaning. For example, say you asked your audience to list must-have functionality in a CRM system. Someone replies that it must tie in with and have a similar UI to an application currently in use so sales reps will use the new system from the outset. If you turn around and write the words easy to use, you’ve missed the point, changed what the speaker said and communicated that you weren’t listening.

2. Ask speakers to summarize or shorten what they said. This request will ensure you write down their exact words, especially if what they said was long and detailed. When you need speakers to shorten their answer to a phrase you can fit on your flipchart, you might ask: If you had to say that in five or six words, how would you say it?

3. Tape completed pages to the wall. This makes ideas available for reference and keeps the whole picture visible so you and the audience can ensure nothing is missed. To make this task look effortless, put strips of tape along the edge of the easel ahead of time. If possible, ask audience members to assist you in hanging up the pages. This gets them actively involved in your presentation and makes them feel they’re part of your team.

4. Highlight key words or phrases. This makes them obvious at a glance, particularly if you’re using multiple pages hung up around the room. Highlight words by underlining, circling or using a different, bright color such as red. Or try a product called Flip Chart Highlighter tape, which comes in four fluorescent colors. The lettering on the flipchart shows through the tape, and you also can write on it and reposition it. Whatever you do, don’t simply make long, black lists. “I find that when I simply put words on a page and let participants read down the list, interest wanes,” says Lucas.