Ethics Question: Rating Your Own Speaking Sessions

20121217-220719.jpgVery recently I asked some people whom I respect whether I should rate the sessions at which I was a speaker for a conference. To be sure, I felt that I’d done a bang-up job and that the audience had been engaged both times. In fact, I came out of these sessions with a sense of professional confidence greater than I had going into them.

And then the attendee survey came. With it, the opportunity to “rate” both my own sessions and my role as the speaker.

Of course, I was also an attendee at this conference. I went to sessions while there and learned from them. I was fortunate in that they were very good sessions and I walked away with something from each. It doesn’t always break that way, and sometimes I’ll even walk out of a session – heck, we all have. It’s not even anything against the speaker, sometimes it’s just that the topic isn’t quite what we thought it would be.

But then I’m also given the option to rate my own session.

I’m not going to divulge how I decided. The point of this blog is to ask simply, “Is it ethical to rate your own speaking sessions?”

The reason I was given pause is that:

  1. It will skew the data. I will potentially lose some of the “honesty” of the feedback.
  2. Pursuant to Point 1, would I ever give myself less than a 5 (historical footnote, I’ve done this in the past because I felt I didn’t live up to my own expectations)
  3. How will I learn to be better if I weight the results?
  4. Isn’t it in some way dishonest to the event organizer?
    1. …but shouldn’t the event organizer send out separate evaluations to registered speakers to prevent this from happening?
  5. I’m possibly overthinking this

I know that I put more thought into my decision than is typical. That’s kind of what I do. But I’m legitimately curious as to where people fall on the issue and why.

Share your thoughts with me, and gain strength from the sharing.


10 thoughts on “Ethics Question: Rating Your Own Speaking Sessions

  1. Ideally, the conference organizers would be able to aggregate your results in such a way that measures your own feedback against that of your peers. That way, you have a better sense of what you might of thought was brilliant but came out flat to the audience, or what you may not have realized was a valuable part of your presentation. My last two employers did our reviews in that manner, and it was a very simple graph.

    Of course, it would be easy enough for you to fill out the feedback form and pocket it instead of turn it in, then do the comparison yourself when the results come in.

    At the end of the day, however, we all need every advantage we can get in this world. If you think you did well, take credit for it. If you think you flopped, take a pass on it.

    1. Thanks – I agree with your points.

      And to keep my humility going, like a half-with I spent minutes trying to figure out how I’d “pocket” an electronic survey before I figured out you were talking about a paper one.

  2. To evaluate yourself or not to evaluate that is the question. The answer is simple. Evaluate yourself. Did you do work? Did you present the best you could at that moment? Then evaluate yourself. You know what you did. You know the work that went into it. You know the skills it takes to get in front of hundreds of people and speak with confidence. If you did not do it at the best you could then you wasted everyone’s time. You just sucked an hour and a half from everyone’s life that attended your session if you believe you did less than the best. If you are not going to present the best you possibly can, then why bother? If I go to a session and the presenter is not going to give me their best, then let me know. I will know to never waste my time with that speaker again. Sure, you probably would have said things different, or answered a question with a different tone, but that is what you felt was best at that moment. Even the best hitters in baseball strike out, but that doesn’t mean they are not giving the best performance they can. Ask yourself why you did it in the first place. Is it anything else but to inform and educate the attendees? You informed and educated the people that attended your sessions. I go back to the things that people don’t see that attended. What it takes to get up there. Give yourself high evaluations for doing that. Not everyone can do it. Even fewer can do it well. And you did it great. Besides, why let your evaluation get ruined by some troll that sits in the back of the room, has never taught anything in their life, and did not engage at all? People love to hate, and there is not much we can do about that. Unfortunately in the system that you are talking about they do not throw out the outliers and they let them drag down great sessions. Are you skewing the data? No, you are not. You are telling them “I was the best that day, and you can’t take that away from me”. Plus you voted for yourself for class elections in school didn’t you? Same thing, you had confidence and said you are the best for the job.

    And yes you are over-thinking it. Get out of your head.

  3. this is a no brainer. rate yourself with high marks every time, multiple times if you can. after all, who’s gonna tell you how great you are, if not yourself.

    on a side note, as much as it pains me to agree with you in your hometown (blog), you did a fantastic job.

  4. If you really want to improve yourself, you have to have good data. It’s not that your opinion of yourself isn’t valuable; it’s that your self-opinion is a different animal — part of a different *set* of data — and it obscures the picture provided by the view of others. That being said, take the view of others with a grain of salt. The second people have anonymity, every insult gets overstated. For reference, please visit the internet.

    1. The tail end is of particular note. What if, for instance, you took a strong stand against someone’s firmly-held belief in the session and did not “agree to disagree”? Aren’t they more likely, then, to reduce their score based on the fact that they didn’t like what you had to say? That just seems to be basic human nature. I know I consciously make an effort to divorce “right” from “good”, especially if its just a healthy disagreement – unless their view is so far off-kilter it’s nonsense. My question has always been whether to engage my positive side and say everyone does that, or engage my cynical side and say that people are nasty and I’m an outlier in that case.

  5. I look at it like voting for yourself in an election. You better at least vote for yourself or how can you expect anyone else too? Do you want things to end up like the Movie election with Tracy Flick winning because the other guy couldn’t vote for himself? No you do not.

    That being said I would hope most surveys like this can separate out your own results for comparison. A mentioned by tonbabydc my work evaluations do this. They take my answers to the evaluation and compare it to my co-workers evaluations of how I do. They then use that to identify hidden strengths or weaknesses. If I rated myself highly in an area where my co-workers rated me lower then that is a hidden weakness. Vice versa is a hidden strength. Everyone has blind spots and by their nature they are hard to spot.

    1. Thanks for the comment – very appreciated! It seems that the overwhelming consensus is that there is no conflict, and at the worst it would force me to assess what I thought was a success against what others thought was a failure – which is certainly good data to have.


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