I've read a number of questions on the topic of giving or receiving feedback:

In the cases sampled, they often relate to environments where there is a hierarchy (manager:employee), peer-to-peer (employee:employee), etc.

But in the case of a classroom styled seminar (in my case, a seminar on R) for beginners. As someone who has experience with the language, I found that there were a number of flaws in the epistemology and how the seminar was structured for beginners.

The flaw wasn't in terms of style or eloquence as the presenters were confident in their knowledge but rather of content. What they chose to present and the manner (order and density) of which it was taught.

My goal is to help as I believe the spirit of the seminar is good (teaching beginners about R), but as a relative unknown (relative to the presenter, I am not a mentor, their instructor, or their close friend) I don't see a means of pointing out flaws without insinuating that the entire seminar was flawed.

As an audience member, how can I effectively give feedback without coming off as pretentious or condescending? At the same time, is it my place to actually give detailed and in-depth feedback?

  • Were the presenters part of your organization or from the outside? Who are you giving feedback to, the presenters or your management?
    – MaxW
    Sep 30, 2017 at 19:29
  • The presenters are part of the parent organization, but not within my immediate dept. The feedback would be to the presenters on the content of their presentation.
    – Bluebird
    Sep 30, 2017 at 19:30
  • @JoeStrazzere Yes they do, but feedback forms are limited in their breadth and depth (often multiple choice, short answer) not a play-by-play review of the seminar and an opportunity for and in-depth QA on not only what was presented but why. My goal is to find a means of establish a communications channel that allows for a discussion of (and please forgive me for using the following phrase, but I do not know of a better way to frame it) what is "The Workplace Meta" to "The Workplace".
    – Bluebird
    Sep 30, 2017 at 22:20
  • @JoeStrazzere When I was first starting out, I can clearly remember experienced programmers who took their personal time and mentored newcomers. I saw this as an opportunity to return the favor while learning and applying different skills (such as communicating with differences in skill level, listening and understanding from another person's perspective). I've realized that despite something being catered for beginners, an experienced person can still learn and help out.
    – Bluebird
    Sep 30, 2017 at 23:36
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because how do I be Pretentious with out being perceived as being pretentious is off topic. Sep 30, 2017 at 23:44

1 Answer 1


As an audience member, how can I effectively give feedback without coming off as pretentious or condescending?

The feedback forms you were given are the vehicle that was available to you for providing feedback. If you didn't use them, you should have.

Going beyond that to provide a "play-by-play review" will come off as pretentious and/or condescending unless it is invited.

If you still feel that more of your feedback is needed, call whoever is in charge of these seminars. Ask if there is a good way for you to provide feedback that goes beyond what you were able to provide on the feedback form.

If the leader agrees to discuss it with you further, then feel free to weigh in with your comments and criticisms. It may still come across as pretentious or condescending - that depends on your skills as a communicator and the receptiveness of the leader. But at least the way it comes across will be limited to this one individual (at least initially).

It would have been better if you had asked the lead before the seminar if you (as an experienced R programmer) could audit the seminar (or even better, a draft version of the seminar) and provide detailed feedback on the content. That would have come across as an offer to be helpful, rather than after-the-fact criticism.

Perhaps now you could offer to present an intermediate seminar yourself.

  • Didn't think of reaching out and contacting the organizers. I am still in the session now so it isn't something I did not do. With this said, I will definitely apply your suggestion.
    – Bluebird
    Sep 30, 2017 at 23:37

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .