Feedback – Get the Most out of A&S – Part 5

In Part 1, I talked about me and how people need to want your feedback. In Part 2, I talked about the sandwich method and that feedback needs to focus on substance, not form. In Part 3, I introduced SMART feedback as that substance. In Part 4, I talked about the Halo Effect. Now I am going to talk about Mistress Gianetta Andreini da Vicenza (Jen Small)’s Get The Most Out of Judging and Entering A&S class.

For starters, you can find the handout materials for her class and her outline at the links above.

I had quite a bit of management training before I took Gianetta’s class at Pennsic a few years ago. However, many of her insights and techniques mirrored what I was taught and undoubtedly shaped this series. Let’s go through her notes and class and see how this series can work with her insights.

In the Lunarbaboon cartoon, the father teaches feedback. Be Specific, Be Postitive, and Give the next step. There are some parallels there. The next step is often “actionable.” Immediately below that, Gianetta writes, “sharing is vulnerable, focus on empathy.” That is another point we have in common. Much of her advice is what implied in the 0th rule of feedback; they have to want the feedback from you. Her advice is an excellent way for someone to want feedback from you. In part 2, I hit on several areas of overlap again, be an active learner, find out what the other person needs, etc.

One of the big points that Gianetta makes about giving and receiving feedback is understanding your audience. In specific, understanding that the presenter of the display wants to show you something, something they worked on, and hopefully are proud of. As a judge, you should expand your view and see where you intersect with the presenter. You are both humans, you are both SCAdians, you are both creators, and you are both participants in this activity. With so much overlap, you should have many areas to empathize with each other.

Your base interaction, even in judging, should be a conversation. So have one. And don’t assume you know a lot about the object, even if you do. Let the other person tell you about it. Enjoy the experience. Be an active learner. Ask questions. Be collaborative.

That last one is very important. Stereotypical or not, the bad “judge” or “laurel” who just rips things apart is a legitimate fear. Everyone has heard the stories. As a judge, what are you trying to prove? That you know more than the presenter? That is probably true. But you earn no points by such behavior. Approach the situation as a true collaboration. You have something to offer but this is their project.

Gianetta then offers some basic attitudes to adopt when judging. Be comfortable and secure. Many times, the other person is looking at you as an expert, or at least someone who knows more than they do. Be curious. Sincerity helps a lot here too. Be excited. “What this is thing? Why did you choose it? Tell me about.” Be a learner and a student.

Ask open-ended questions. Allow the other person to answer and explain. You want the story of the project. When you are getting it, ask open-ended questions that lead to the answers in the criteria? “Tell me about your research.” “What did you like about the project?” “What were your challenges?” Much of that can be organic to the conversation but ask if it isn’t offered.

Once the presenter has given you their story, then you offer feedback and advice. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions on a next step. You want to encourage this person to keep making something, not stop in fear of your words.

One of the hardest things is judging something that you have no understanding about. You know somethings. If you made anything before, you understand effort. You understand the process of making something. Rely on that. Rely on your fellow judges. You definitely don’t have to agree with them but you can get insight from them. “Was that a reasonable substituion?” “That seemed to be difficult, is it?” You can even rely on the presenter. They know this object really well. And rely on the criteria.

For presenters, consider what your goals are in the entry. Are you showing off? Wanting feedback? Winning the competition? All are valid goals. Be prepared. The judges are going to want to know what you did and why. Consider whether the venue is compatible with the goal. Maybe a craftsperson’s faire is better to show off. Maybe a Queen’s Prize Tourney is better to win a competition. But all work.

If high scores are your goal, then score yourself verses the criteria. Figure out the range bracket. Are you good with that score? Later, when you get a score from the judge, you can determine, “that was fair.” or “I should have scored higher because x”. And maybe you forgot to talk about x!

By and large, in an A&S situation, you are not being judged. Your work is. The judges, by and large, are not interested in and definitely don’t want to alienate you. But their feedback might do that. Give yourself time away from the feedback. Have a safety valve in a friend. Then go back to the feedback. Hopefully, it will be sincere and actionable. See what you can learn from it and use as much of it as you can. Some feedback, even though well meaning, can be discarded. “I know it was supposed to be red. I don’t like red and I am going to wear this.” That is fine.

If Gianetta has an overriding point it would be this: both sides need to have a good attitude about what is happening and be present in the moment. Interact with each other sincerely and with a sense of wonder and curiosity.

All of the above is just a summary of Gianetta’s class. There is a lot of good stuff if you get the chance to take it.

More in this series
Feedback and Leadership- Part 1
Feedback – The Sandwich Method – Part 2
Feedback – Being S.M.A.R.T – Part 3
Feedback – The Halo Effect – Part 4
Feedback – Miscellany & Conclusions – Part 6

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