Like most married couples, my wife Kelly and I don’t always agree on every subject, but when it comes to feedback we both absolutely agree that it’s a good thing.
What? Yes, you read that correctly – I said feedback is good.
Understand that I’m not talking about a 1K squeal that erupts from the PA just as the vocalist starts to sing a big ballad and decides to bend over the monitor wedge and get closer to the fans.
Rather, I’m referring to the process of gathering information to better yourself and your work.
Kelly is a human resources professional who uses feedback daily to analyze workplace communication and performance. This information is shared and helps employees learn and grow in their jobs, in addition to shaping and focusing the business practices of the company.
Most of us who work in audio are not business people, but tech folks. Over the years, we’ve learned to do our jobs well, but sometimes are hesitant to ask others for input on how we’re doing because we might not like the answers. However, just as with business, getting feedback on our audio work can help us figure out what is working and what might need improvement.
We all receive unsolicited feedback at gigs. Sometimes it’s just a simple “sounded good” thrown at you from concertgoers as they walk past front of house after a show. Other times it’s the “I can’t hear the (insert instrument/band member here)” or “it’s too loud” comments from patrons as you’re frantically trying to figure out what happened between sound check and the start of the show.
Let’s return to the example of the people who say “sounded good” at the end of the gig. Do you just smile and say thanks? I do, but then I also ask where they were sitting. Sometimes I also ask them about levels – too much, too little, just right? This usually provides me with some useful feedback from unbiased people, and most folks are more than happy to give you their opinion when asked.
How about the “it’s too loud” people? Do you just assume that grandma shouldn’t have sat so close to the PA ,or do you actually try to find out more? I’ve been surprised to learn that it’s often not the volume that’s the issue, but something else that was amiss with our output/coverage. Maybe the point/complaint is valid, or maybe not, but either way it’s helpful to have additional information.
And yes, unsolicited feedback often comes at busy times, but if possible, try to follow up later. The value of this information often outweighs the 30 seconds or so it takes to ask a question and listen to the response.
Co-workers and employees can also be a great source of feedback. It’s important to foster an atmosphere of trust and communication where peers and staff are free to share their input – quite often, they also will offer viable solutions. After all, these folks want events to be a success as well. And if they don’t volunteer information, simply ask.
Clients are usually not shy in providing feedback (especially if they don’t like something), but many are never requested to do so. So again, ask. I find that it not only gives me some good insight about what they thought of the event, but also lets them know that their opinion means something to me, and that I want to improve so I can better serve them. After all, the goal is a happy and repeat client, isn’t it?
Remember, when it comes to feedback, squeals are bad, but information is good!
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International, and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.