Carlos Vby Carlos Velázquez, ACS, CLB

“Feedback is a gift,” I was reminded on many occasions by the leadership team of the American Red Cross.  For many years I was a volunteer with the national headquarters as part of the cadre of master trainers for the HIV/AIDS Latino prevention initiative.  The training was challenging.  Very few volunteers passed the course.  A key component of the curriculum was the evaluation session for each potential certified instructor.

During the course of the evaluation session we were coached on how to listen with the whole body.  We were to take in information as a gift.  We were not to respond or rebut to any feedback.  We had to listen and learn how to improve our skills and to understand the perspective of what our audience might perceive.  Audience perception is everything.

During our evaluation sessions at Toastmasters we are reminded that our speeches need to be audience-centered and that their perception on what we deliver is everything.   This is important from the way we engage an audience through eye contact, rhetorical questions, or even the word choice of our stories.   An evaluator for Toastmasters provides feedback through a critical lens that allows us to see how we are coming across non-verbally and the effectiveness of our words.

A gift should not be re-gifted.  That is poor taste.  A gift should not be returned.  It can teach.  A gift should not go without acknowledgement, even if you don’t like it.  A gift is an opportunity for speakers to learn about how they are being perceived by an audience; thus, feedback should be seen as an opportunity to learn, reflect, and grow.  We don’t have to agree with all the feedback but it is a good practice to return to comments within in 24 hours to see if a fresh read of our notes allows us to see things differently.  This is a part of hearing feedback with the whole body.