AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Oct/12

31

Stella SiWan Zimmerman on Making Evaluation Not So Scary

My name is Stella SiWan Zimmerman and I am the President of ACET Inc., an evaluation firm located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’ve been asked to contribute to a blog on Halloween. What a great opportunity to focus on techniques evaluators can use to take the fear out of the evaluation process. The following tips can work whether you are planning an evaluation from the beginning or presenting the results at the end.

Hot Tips:

No scary masks allowed. The evaluator should present a welcoming environment that is pleasant, upbeat, and solution-focused for clients. This includes details such as arriving early to the meeting and engaging in casual conversation with clients, introducing yourself to and shaking hands with them, remembering to smile, and dressing in a way that complements the natural client environment. No matter how much of an expert you are in the topic or your skills, nobody wants to sit next to Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, intimidating clients who may be completely new to the evaluation process.

Leave those knives in the kitchen. Presenting evaluation results will include potentially positive and negative findings, but the negative should neither start nor end the presentation. It is important to carve time for a fruitful discussion about potential opportunities and next steps. Cutting right to the chase with the negatives or ending on a down note will leave your clients bleeding.

Nobody likes getting buried alive. The evaluator should facilitate or ask questions that engage clients in a solution-focused conversation. Be careful not to put clients on the spot to defend or argue a point. This may leave clients feeling like you just placed them in a cold, awful place and will make them not want to participate or offer feedback in the future.

Have a zombie contingency plan in place. Consider the timing of your meeting and the potential condition of your clients. Is it over breakfast, lunch, or toward the end of the day? Is your meeting several hours long? Having refreshments in place will make a difference in facilitating happy and alert client participation.

I hope that these tips help you to strengthen your client relationships and show that evaluation is all about treats, not tricks! If you have any questions or tips that you would like to share, feel free to comment below.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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