I’m not sure which made me the most anxious, the 500 spectators, or the morning’s flawless presentation by keynote speaker and U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Tony Kern on the elimination of human error in the workplace. (Tony published his first book while I was a freshman in high school.)
Either way, it was with a healthy dose of focus and humility that I took the stage at the American Society for Quality (ASQ) conference in Phoenix last February.
The invitation to speak at the conference came with a request that I share about Six Sigma principles in an “unusual environment.” Six Sigma principles, of course, are the business -improvement practices made famous by giants like Motorola and General Electric.
Thus my home base at Six Sigma Ranch and Winery made me well qualified for the topic, and even more qualified as an “unusual environment.” (According to the organizer, there would be no guests from the business of agriculture. Excellent!)
I share all that only to share what happened after the presentation.
The organizers handed a survey to each spectator on the way in, and each survey was collected on the way out. (Bouncer-looking characters were placed at the exits to insure thorough collection of data.)
The results from hundreds of surveys were sent to the speakers, which gave me a review of everything from my presentation format and content to the quality of slides and my personal posture. (According to several folks I apparently gave more attention to one side of the room than the other. Who knew? Otherwise, the marks were positive.)
I learned from all of this (in addition to several unsolicited but valuable comments on my presentation skills), that surveys are an incredibly powerful tool. With them, the conference organizers now know exactly who the crowd wants back, whom they don’t want back, and why. And the presenters (whether they are invited back or not) have great feedback to improve future presentations.
I was so amused that I created a simple survey for our wine distributors at Six Sigma Ranch. The result? Most were happy, but most asked for more printed marketing materials. That’s an easy fix, and we were happy to provide it. But if we hadn’t asked, we wouldn’t have known.