Five-Minute Feedback: Creating a Tool and Ritual for Meeting Evaluations

by Anna Bentley

Have you ever facilitated a meeting or taught a class that left you wondering, “Were they actually interested in this topic, or were they secretly bored out of their minds? Did I make any sense at all? Did they get anything out of that? Did I make everyone feel included?” Sometimes it feels impossible to read the room, and in those moments, I doubt my facilitation skills. And when you’re not sure what topics and facilitation moves are exciting for folks and which are dreadful, it’s hard to know how to adapt your next meeting to better suit their needs.

Last year was my first year supervising a small group of student employees and facilitating their weekly professional development meetings. Sometimes I’d ask student employees individually what they thought of the meeting afterwards, but I feared they were just being polite and giving me praise, being put on the spot like that. I mean, it’s hard to tell your supervisor, “Yeah, that meeting totally sucked. Your prompts made no sense, and you were way off your game. What were you thinking?!”

Tired of guessing how things landed for them, I knew I needed a system for feedback, but I wanted something that would capture everyone’s thoughts and would also be a tool for them to continue to engage with what they just learned. What I created was an anonymous paper evaluation form that both captured their thoughts and gave them a brief moment to connect what they just learned to their role. I chose a paper form intentionally, as folks integrate connections and meaning differently through writing compared to typing. I designed the form to be simple yet have lots of opportunity for optional open-ended feedback. I set aside the last five minutes of every meeting for everyone to complete this form at once, and it became a sort of ritual, something that they expected to fill out every week. As the weeks went on, I noticed they were giving more detailed responses to the open-ended questions, perhaps because they knew there was time set aside, and their peers were all doing this at the same time too.

By gathering feedback in this way, I’ve learned so much about myself as a facilitator and have made many small but reportedly impactful changes to the way I design and deliver content. For instance, I received feedback very quickly that our training agenda handouts were long and overwhelming. My colleague and I abbreviated the agenda the following week and heard that it was much more digestible. Some folks also commented that they wanted more time for group discussion after small group activities, as the time I was setting aside always seemed to get cut short. I made thoughtful adjustments and set more rigid time boundaries to honor the group discussions, and that led to much richer, meaningful closing conversations.

I’d love to share this evaluation form with you in case you’re curious about implementing something similar with your students or colleagues. Now I distribute this after every meeting I facilitate, including training sessions for new student employees and team meetings I facilitate with my pro staff colleagues. Two of my favorite items in the evaluation form that participants rate and comment on are (1) “The facilitator(s) cared about what I had to say” and (2) “I felt like I could be myself in today’s meeting.” These align with the values I prioritize as a supervisor of students. As my values and objectives evolve over time, this form will too. I hope this inspires you to adapt or develop a feedback tool that works for your values and needs!

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