Cатсн²² (in)sесuяitу / ChrisJohnRiley

Because we're damned if we do, and we're damned if we don't!

Giving feedback

One thing that’s always bugged me about talking in-front of a crowd of people (other than the shakes and a craving for hard alcohol of course) is the topic of feedback. Maybe it’s just me, but for me feedback is one of the main ways I rate how well a talk went. It helps me mold the information in a way that’s easiest for people to absorb, and gives me a measuring stick for what I need to do better/different next time to make the talk really rock!

Unfortunately, the usual feedback you get from friends and family (yes, I class some of these dirty hackers types as family now) can be a little lackluster. Although uttering the phrase “it was good” or “I think it went well” is reassuring, to my ears that sounds more like “yep, that was mediocre”. Lack of feedback, good honest feedback, is probably the cause of many a bad presenter/presentation. We may have the technical knowledge to talk on a subject, but without REAL feedback we may not have the soft skills to really get the message across!

So, what can we all do better next time… and yes, this it what we ALL need to do, not just the presenters!

Honest feedback

Holding back on telling a speaker what was bad is doing them a dis-service IMHO. Obviously going at them screaming how crap this and that was is going to put a downer on your message (and probably make you sound like a bit of a dick).

Giving negative feedback is an art form… This is some of the most honest, useful and also hardest to convey right!


Did you ever attend a talk only to find that the talk title and abstract had almost no connection with the contents? Maybe it was a vendor talk and you were lured in by the promise of free 0day… maybe it was just a misunderstanding.

Sometimes our expectations don’t meet up with those of the presenter. Telling people about your confusion can help to make it clear what you (the average con goer) thought about the title and abstract. Again, be gentle… but every little helps!


In almost very talk there’s one point where you just don’t get something. Either it’s a key fact that’s missing, or a leap from part 1 straight to part 3. Airing this confusion can help make future presentations flow better, and help the speaker really get a grasp on what the audience understands and doesn’t.

Good points

Alongside all the things that could be done better you should also not forget to mention the good points. Take a key point you thought was well explained, well presented, or well displayed and make sure the presenter knows it! A little goes a long way here!


Next time you see a presentation try to give the speaker a few good points of feedback from the following list:

  • One good thing you took from the presentation
  • One thing that could improve the presentation
  • One thing that was confusing or unclear
  • How the presentation met or missed your expectations
  • The one take-away you’ll take from the presentation

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