I’ve been speaking semi-professionally for 20 years and professionally for seven.
For the first time ever (including 8th grade speech class) I got a NEGATIVE review.
Two stars out five.
I think it’s important to share our successes but also our learning opportunities. It’s also a grand time to look at things objectively. So please read along with me as I share my experience and what I learned. It'll help you too when you have to face a negative comment or challenge in your business or event.
Number one - facts matter to your client, but not that much.
In the review, the host said my speech was way too long. This technically is not correct because my speech was under the agreed upon amount of time. The host also mentioned that they wanted a motivational speech not a workshop. We agreed beforehand on an interactive motivational speech with practical takeaways. My workshops run 3 hours. This speech was under an hour. The hosts perception and my perception of an interactive speech versus a workshop was different. As a result of different expectations, the host FELT like it was too long.
The facts are disputable, but feelings cannot be disputed. We've all had situations where expectations were not met and that feeling of disappointment is common to us all. I FELT it.
Number two - bad news travels faster than good news. Also, the facts still matter, but still not that much.
The review said there were some negative comments, which I believe is accurate. However I spoke to several people after the event who were not just giving niceties, but showed genuine interest and excitement. One even showed me the notes she emailed to herself about the tips I was sharing! Yet this positivity was not shared with the host.
This is why hosting events feels so thankless, and I get it - It’s a TOUGH job. If things go great, the guest gets the credit and if things go wrong the host gets blamed. When the reviews are mixed, the FEELING tends to be worse than the FACTS. However, the fact remains, she got negative comments and she therefore FELT like it was a negative experience for everyone. As a result, I had unhealthy feelings because I’ve NEVER had negative comments before. Suddenly things became black and white, right and wrong, and I began to catastrophize. This is NOT the time to respond to the review, or make a decision about the business. It’s time to reflect and LET THE FEELINGS FLOW THROUGH YOU.
The fact remains, as a host and as a speaker, no one wants ANY negative comments. For the fist time in two decades, I missed something - which leads me to this...
Number three - communication is f***ing messy!
The meaning of communication always lies with the person receiving the message. During our conversations prior to the event, it is clear now that the host and I had different definitions of meanings regarding common words like - motivation, education, interactive, keynote, and workshop. Clearly this is an aberration. I have never missed the mark so badly with a host before that we actually had a complete misunderstanding! Chances are it’ll be 20 years before it happens again. But I don’t want it to happen again…ever. As a result of this rare event, I will make some slight changes.
Here are my two tweaks that can be applied to any business or conversation that I will spend more energy on:
Ask more questions. If a client says, “I want a 45 minute workshop about conflict resolution?” I can ask, “Great, tell me more about that?” and dig deeper. It’s a fun, great conversation that will 99% of the time ensure a terrific fit! And that other 1% of the time I can have a further conversation about the path ahead. Most inquiries I get don’t even get that far. I receive several inquiries a month and MOST I TURN DOWN because I’m not a fit and I know that right from the start. My passion is to create change through communication, vulnerability, and storytelling; to create and deepen business and personal relationships. If someone wants a wedding host, or a holiday story, with no practical takeaways, that’s not me. I know my strengths. I’ll make sure the communication is as clear as possible so my clients/hosts know them too.
Adjust on the fly. Not to brag, but I am extremely good at this (except this time). I customize every message for every audience. It's not a canned presentation where one message fits all. As a result, based on what is happening in the moment, I can adjust, alter, change my message, change my style, ask a question, etc. This is why I get hired - I specifically talk to YOUR audience. It's my superpower. This time, it didn't happen - and I'm shocked I missed it! I blame this on doing virtual events for two years! I should have paid more attention to the audience during the event. Many were engaged and involved, but I can tell as a speaker that there were some feelings of discontent. An easy pivot for me would have been to cut the interactive material, and presented everything that needed to be done. A 2% course correction would have fixed everything. I have spoken with so many other speakers, teachers, customer facing business owners, and organization leaders that have lost that edge in reading the energy of a person or a room…that intuition because we've been on video and in isolation for so long. We, as humanity, are clawing our way back. I have to pay careful cognitive attention to the non verbal messages of my audience. Something that was so natural in 2019, was something I had to be aware of a month ago. The frustrating thing about experience is the test comes first and then comes the lesson. Now, I’ve learned the lesson. Most of us need to again. As a communication expert, it is my responsibility to be on the front lines of this. More practice, more study, more awareness, so that I can connect with my audience on an intimate level. Now, it's even stronger than before. Never again will I take this superpower for granted.
A final tip for all of us:
When you get a negative review, it hurts doesn’t it? You lie awake and wonder what is going to happen to your business. Fore me, I feel for all the (few) people I let down. It MATTERS and it should hurt. Don’t get defensive. Don’t get angry. Don’t weep and give up. Don’t write an apologetic email while gritting your teeth. Take a step back, let that negative energy pass through you and then look at the facts. Use it for personal and professional growth. Own what you can change moving forward and let it propel you to better business practices and a better future. What you can’t change, what isn’t your fault, or what is in the past… leave it there!
I am truly thankful for this review because it allows me to keep my edge and not rest on past successes. It’s a new world. Time to Rise Above the Noise.