As either the Yearbook Advisor or the student Editor-In-Chief, it will be your duty to provide all members of the yearbook committee with feedback, and at times, criticism. This could be for the book’s written content, overall layout, art and design, photos, and more. Conseqeuntly, it’s important to understand how to give constructive criticism so that it is viewed as helpful, and so your feedback is well-received.
When people are working tirelessly on something they care about, which is mostly the case when it comes to creating a yearbook, they tend to get defensive if people question their ideas and work. So it’s important to tread lightly and develop your skills for providing feedback. Delivering constructive (that being the key word) criticism can sometimes be just as much work as producing the yearbook itself.
Praise and positivity can alleviate the friction of providing feedback.
But we’re here to make that process a little less painful for you and for the person receiving the feedback. We’ve broken your task down into three main categories: the approach, the criticism, and the follow-up.
- Be positive – Start off by thanking the individual for their work so far, and praise them for what they have done well. You are not necessarily buttering them up to soften the blow, but rather demonstrating that you see they are working and it is appreciated. That way, when it comes time to give your criticism, they will understand that it comes from a good place.
- Be knowledgeable – Take time to fully understand the topic and what you are reviewing. If you come off as uncaring or uninformed, the person will not take what you say seriously, and will most likely become defensive.
- Choose the right time and place – Providing critical feedback in front of a crowd is never appreciated or well-received. It only makes the person feel small and embarrassed. Wait until you are in the right forum and have one-on-one time with the person. Plan ahead to ensure you have enough time so your conversation won’t get cut short.
- Ease into it – When people feel blindsided, they shut down right away. Therefore, start off by saying something like, “You may want to consider…” or, “I noticed a few things…” That way you are providing your feedback while encouraging their ideas, as well.
- Don’t attack – One of the most important things is to remember not to criticize any personal traits of that individual. You are there to provide feedback on the work and make a better yearbook overall, so leave personal matters out of it!
- Be empathetic – Let the person know that you understand how they feel. You can even share an anecdote about a similar situation you’ve been in.
Good constructive criticism skills can be built at any age!
- Be honest – Your main goal is to help the person improve their skills, which will help the work and the yearbook overall. So, using the approach tips, remember to be honest, sincere, and speak your mind.
- Be specific – Giving half-baked feedback can be confusing. Make sure you have what you want to say fully fleshed out, and give concrete examples and advice.
- Keep it short and sweet – Don’t overwhelm the person with a flood of information. A long list of criticism can come off as negative, so limit the points you want to make. If you have more to say, suggest a follow-up meeting.
- Keep communication open – Don’t make your opinions the end-all-be-all. Leave the floor open for brainstorming, and work together to develop the subject into a form both of you are comfortable with.
- You only need to say it once – Or twice, depending on who it is and the size of that particular task. However, harping on the same issue over and over again could cause friction between the two of you, and the committee overall. Don’t let one issue stunt productivity.
- Have a follow-up meeting – Without micro-managing, check in with the person and see how it’s going. Let them know that you are there to support them if they have any questions or need any help.
- Praise productivity – At the next meeting, discuss the steps that individual has taken to meet the goals and praise their improvements.
Consider this… no one likes an ulterior motive. So no matter how you feel about that individual personally, if you are not there to help them ripen their skills, you are NOT there to help the yearbook – and that is the main goal overall.
Keep your ego in check and remember that this is a group effort. Lead by example and keep these noteworthy tips in mind when reviewing the yearbook, and you’ll create a one-of-a-kind, memorable product!