How far will you go to get feedback?

I gave this 3-hour workshop a few weeks back at the big Campus Technology in Boston. It was a ton of fun and I was definitely humbled to be invited back to speak for the 3rd time at CT.

I’ve found the feedback system that this (and most) conferences use to be useless to me. I’ve attended, hosted, and spoken at my fair share of conferences and there’s too much going on to make sure that presenters get quantitative and qualitative feedback in a timely manner. It’s about as bad as those end-of-term teacher evaluations that college students are asked to fill out.

How far will you go to collect feedback? (skip to the very bottom for a quick note on how this applies to start-ups..)

I really care about improving my talks because it’s something I enjoy a lot and want to keep doing.. so this time I took it up a notch.


The first thing I did was brainstorm what I wanted this thing to look like and what information I wanted. I did this while I was designing my content so that the two would be intimately tied together. From past conferences I knew that I wanted to collect feedback on a physical piece of paper – a bit ironic since my talk was about how to go mobile and I could have easily made a mobile app to do exactly this… although with a much lower response rate.

Next, I did a quick mock-up. This took no more than 90 seconds with pen on a note card (which I’m “in like with” right now). Of the four colors I had, I happened to grab a red/pinkish one and you’ll see that I ended up running with an even brighter version of that color for the finished product. Putting pen to paper and getting something out of your head and into the physical world is hard because so many of us strive for perfect. Screw that. Just get something started and then focus your energy on making it better.

*You can actually see that I used pen for the original mockup and then did a second pass ten minutes later with a fine-tip sharpie.

Next I moved into InDesign. Any jack-of-all-trades must be able to hack in the Adobe Suite. It’s a rule. It helps that I ran two print newspapers in a past life.

After a few minutes and doing my best to not overthink it, I exported this bad-boy to a PDF and ran over to my 24-hour Kinkos…since it was 11PM the night before my 6AM flight. I printed them out on hot pink paper, sliced them up and was well on my way to conference-feedback glory.

I ultimately decided to keep it really simple. 3 questions:

  1. Rate the content 1-4.
  2. Rate the presentation 1-4.
  3. Give me any other comments you have.

NB: 1) I left the back blank so people could write on it. 2) I didn’t do the standard 1-5 rating because I didn’t want folks riding on the fence.

I ended up making a little packet for my attendees. In addition to the feedback card, I included two business cards, and a checklist that was tied in with my presentation materials. Here’s one of my slides from the presentation:

And here’s how they turned out. Took less than 3 hours all in – definitely worth it to me since I’m angling to keynote this conference next time and can use this data as a bartering chip…

and all together:
I really like how these turned out. They were clear & simple. Most importantly, they were very effective in helping me accomplish my goal of collecting feedback. The bright color made them easy to collect and track down as people were leaving my talk.

Oh and I got great feedback. Over 75% of attendees gave me back the pink cards from two different sessions… 90%+ of which was very positive! woot!

So how does this apply to start-ups?
Do your users and customers know how much you care about solving their problem? Furthermore, how are you going to make the right product if you’re not in a constant dialogue with your potential customers?

Bottom Line: If you don’t show your customers that you care and listen, your competitors will… and you’ll eventually lose.

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