Wrong Note, Right Place

Wrong Note, Right Place

If the act of presenting and public speaking effectively is difficult (which it is), something that many of us find equally tricky is the process of receiving feedback on what we have done – or what actors call ‘notes’.

In acting, these are the adjustments that a director or producer gives to the cast during rehearsal, about how to do the scene next time. What’s worse, these are often given in front of fellow cast members and crew. Which means everyone involved knows what those in charge think, and how you could have done it better. It’s a public declaration that your performance was faulty.

The problem is that actors can be pretty precious people. I say this with no spite at all. As a presenter and voiceover artist, I’m much the same. To give all of yourself to your craft, to do something which feels so personal, it can be pretty disheartening for someone else to step in who thinks they know better, and tell you there’s another way to do it.

Especially if you’ve been in the business for years. As a seasoned professional, to be told that the performance you’ve carefully crafted requires a change can be a bit of a bruise to the ego and – even if it’s done nicely, respectfully, gently – it can sometimes hurt.

What’s worse, you may not agree with the advice given. Even if you’ve got over yourself about the ego thing, you may genuinely think the guidance is mistaken.

Maybe you believe that the problem they’ve identified is wrong.

Or the solution they’re proposing is incorrect.

Possibly both.

Perhaps you’ve already tried it their way – and it was worse. Or at least no better.

What do you do then?

Wrong Note, Right Place

Jeremy Dyson

A bit of advice I hold dear is a brilliant tip from Jeremy Dyson. He’s the author, musician and screenwriter responsible for, amongst other things, the surreal TV comedy series ‘The League of Gentlemen’.

He calls it “Wrong note, right place”.

He says that if you’re getting a note, it’s because something’s not working – and you need to accept that.

The note the director or producer is offering up may not be the right solution or even the right diagnosis of the problem. But there is definitely something wrong at that point in whatever you’re doing.

So instead of resisting notes – which is something we’re all prone to do, defensively or otherwise – we should take them on board gratefully.

Because even if you disagree with the advice given, they have helpfully spotted a bump in the road. And not only that a bump exists, but they’ve located it for you as well. So, even a wrong diagnosis doesn’t hide the fact that something is amiss at that moment. And it’s up to you to do something about it – either by following their suggestions, or coming up with a solution of your own.


It successfully sidesteps the whole ego problem, allows you to listen to their suggestions whilst in the right frame of mind, and puts the solution back in your hands – all at the same time. For PowerPoint presenters, it may be something as simple as the positioning of a slide. Or the way you introduce it. Or an analogy you make.

This approach is something which should actually stop us resisting receiving ‘notes’ on our performance.

It could actually increase our appetite for feedback.

You never know, even make us hungry for it…

In that spirit – genuinely – please let me know what you think of this blog. Comments welcome below.


Image: Jeremy Dyson. (2024, January 21). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Dyson

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