Love You Hate You

As motivational speakers we get the curse honor of seeing what our audience/client truly thinks of us. It’s an incredibly humiliating and defeating awesome thing to get honest raw feedback from your buyer. And when you choose a profession that puts you in the spotlight, you have to take the consequences of being in that spotlight.

I remember when I did shows for a cruise line, where the average age was seventy. I would go to breakfast the morning after my show and hear people talking about me – not knowing I was scooping scrambled eggs right beside them at the buffet. And since hearing is the first to go – most of them were yelling about “that girl” they saw last night at the show. You don’t know what courage it takes to stand in the middle of a group of senior citizens (from all over the world) and have them yell their evaluations around you. Takes the fun out of scrambled eggs. And was the last time I went to breakfast with the passengers the morning after my show. At that time I didn’t realize what a gift it is to know how your art and your work is being received. Even if it stings sometimes.

Feedback helps you grow, it helps you develop thick skin, and it teaches you to get back up even in the face of rejection. (You’d think dating would have taught me that!) And there is an art to receiving feedback and criticism, both constructive and destructive.  It takes time to develop the proper attitude of dealing with evaluations. Here is what I’ve learned in the hopes it will help you:

  • Learn the 10/10/80 Rule.  A dear comedian friend taught me this years ago, and it has helped me through years of evaluations. 10% of the people in your audience will love you because they love everybody. 10% will hate you because they hate everybody. 80% will reserve judgment. Focus on the 80%. If you are pleasing 80%, then you have done well.
  • PRACTICE the 10/10/80 rule. I knew this rule for years before I really lived it. I would still carry around/focus on that 10% of haters. Hear me when I say that the haters are not the norm, and if you conform your art/work to fit their needs, you will create something that only appeals to the minority of haters out there. Why would you do that? They are obviously not your audience. So don’t change to fit them! You can’t please everybody. Let it go. Can’t be done.
  • Read the evaluations. I had a speaker tell me that I shouldn’t even read them – should just throw them in the trash. Well, if that isn’t walking past the mirror and closing your eyes so you don’t have to see that your fly is down!  Put your big girl panties on and read the evaluations. These comments will make you better.
  • Assess the evaluations for validity. Is the comment true? Do you pace back and forth too much? Get a second opinion. And a third. Make a list of these comments so you can see if you see the same comments show up on other evaluations – or if that was just a random opinion. (And trust me, the world is filled with random off-the-wall opinions.) Sometimes someone will take offense at a joke I made. And I have to decide if I’m going to leave the joke in or not. One time I decided that they were right, and that the joke was likely to offend a bunch more people, and it wasn’t funny enough to take the risk.  And another time I decided that I was okay with that joke, that it was my most popular, and worth the risk of offending two out of thousands. You see, this comes down to personal choice. There is no right or wrong answer here. And, trust me, just about everything you say can be taken the wrong way. Eventually you have to pick a lane and just stay there.
  • Change what needs changing. Ah. Here’s the tough part. Some of us fall in love with our material and will not change it, even if it means we will go down with this ship.  If you aren’t going to bother changing – then don’t bother getting feedback – and don’t bother dreaming because you are headed for a life spent in a comfort zone, and the successful people rise above that.
  • Use your evaluations to see what people are REALLY connecting to. It always amazes me that people don’t always respond to what I think they will respond to. I love evaluations because they show me what my people want to hear, so I can do more of it.
  • Save the good ones. There are days when I feel defeated – when I question myself – when the jobs don’t come – or when I just have a bad day. These are the days I reach for those loving evaluations for they are a repeated gift to me. They remind me why I do what I do, and how it does reach some people in a powerful effective way. And I remember that sometimes I have to go through a hundred to reach one – and I’m okay with that – because that “one” was really important to me.
  • Use evaluations to teach you who your audience really is – the ones who connect with what you do. I don’t care what you do or what you sell, you have a specific audience. And finding this is key. Because once you know your audience, you can speak to your audience, sell to your audience, and shine to your audience. If you still think your audience is everybody – you’re not there yet. Study these evaluations and you will start to see the makeup of your perfect audience – and why they love you.

So I hope these tips will help you receive feedback in a healthy way. And may I end by saying: Don’t Give Up. Don’t let any comment convince you to quit. Your dream is too important to let the naysayers stand in the way. They may be right – maybe you do suck. Okay, then. Get better. I wish you could have seen how bad I was when I first started. And I’m still not where I want to be. It’s a process. But I’m not going to quit. Because I don’t know how to do anything else. And speaking, writing, making people laugh, and spreading hope and encouragement is in my blood. I will do it until I can’t do it anymore. And I hope you will follow your dream until you can’t do it anymore. The world needs you, your voice, and your story. Keep going until you find your audience.

Your wacky motivational speaker helping you find your 80%,

Kelly Swanson





Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
To book motivational speaker Kelly Swanson:
Motivational speaker Kelly Swanson's website

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  1. Good grief. I just published this post and now I already have a comment on my own post! I’m a therapist’s dream! But I want to add this thought about evaluations:

    Sometimes it is personal. We keep hearing people say, “Don’t take evaluations personally.” And that’s true. But sometimes their feedback is personal, and it’s important to remember that too. Sometimes people will attack you simply because you are thinner than they are, or because they are angry nobody asked them to speak. Sometimes their critique stems from an insecurity they have. In which case the evaluation is personal. You won’t know it when this happens. You just need to know this happens.

    Okay. Now I’m done. I think.

  2. Kelly – you are a therapist’s dream! You are also a gem and a half. I remember one time after I got off stage, the woman who collected all the evaluations did me a (dis-service) service by telling me “The evaluations were all positive so I’ll just let you know about the negatives. Your outfit was too casual for this audience.” Actually it really was great advice and I never wore that outfit again on stage – it actually was too casual for my corporate audiences. But, if we never heard reviews, we would never review. However, timing is important. I’ll never forget my fellow motivational speaker and friend Patricia Fripp saying to an attendee who approached her right after she got off stage offering ‘Can I give you some feedback?’. Fripp, with a huge smile, said “Not now! I don’t want anything to affect my speaker high!” It was great. Lesson learned – offer feedback with a generous heart but wait at least until the microphone is unhooked and the applause has stopped!

  3. Oh Kelly, how I wish I couldn’t relate soooo much because it takes me back over the years to all those hundreds (thousands?) of evaluations I read at the end of every day.  I actually worked for a training company for 5 years.  I did over 120 full day training sessions each year and there were anywhere from 20 to 200 people in each session.  So those 600 days of my life, when I finished work, I had EVERY person that I spoke to write up in glorious detail what they thought of me.  I rode a roller coaster of emotion from high to low to flying off the top to crashing at the bottom and everything in between.  And what’s REALLY cool – is that I came to the same conclusions you did.  So anyone reading Kelly’s post – SHE KNOWS OF WHAT SHE SPEAKS!!! 

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