The Standup Trainer Newsletter
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Welcome to all new and continuing
In this issue:
Dr. Standup Answers Your Most
Pressing Presentation Questions
You are all invited to submit any presentation-skills-related question to Dr. Standup. (You are invited to submit any unrelated questions as well, but no promises on how useful the answers will be!)
You are also invited to respond to any question with answers of your own. (The Doctor is magnanimous and will publish alternative responses.)
And now, this month's question . . .
Dear Dr. Standup:
How do you deal with participants who ask you long-winded, complicated, multi-part questions during the Q&A, questions that go on and on and on, and may or may not be relevant to the topic being presented, and may indeed be hidden agenda commentaries rather than true endeavors to elicit further understanding, or just not-so-covert attempts to throw the presenter off course and, at the same time, enhance the status of the questioner among his/her peers in the class, etc. etc. Hah? Know what I mean?
And what do you do if you don't know the answer to the question?
What Am I, Chopped Liver?
Ah, the old questions, the old answers . . . .
This question of yours is very much on my mind, as I noticed during my Executive Communication classes in China that Chinese students have a tendency to do just what you describe—ask very complicated, multi-part questions.
For example, I would say, "Are there any questions?" and several hands would go up. "Yes, Alexander (not his real name). What is your question?" And Alexander would reply, "I have TWO, no THREE questions!" And off he would go, talking, talking, talking, while I would be thinking, thinking, thinking, "Oh, no, I've already forgotten the first part of his question! What do I do now? How do I begin to answer this?"
Of course, while I was doing all this panicky thinking, I was NOT doing what I was supposed to be doing: actually LISTENING to the question.
In her book, Social Studies, the humorist Fran Leibowitz remarks, "The opposite of talking is not listening. The opposite of talking is waiting."
Waiting for what? Why, your turn to talk, of course!
So while I was waiting for Alexander to finish his dissertation-length question, I was mentally rehearsing what my response would be. My response to his first question? Ooops, I've already forgotten what that question was. My response to his second question? I think I remember that one, maybe not. Shall I just try to answer the third part? Or should I do the idiotic unthinkable: ASK ALEXANDER TO REPEAT THE QUESTION?!?!?
What would you do?
If there's a flip chart or a blank transparency or a white board handy, you can paraphrase the question in writing, with the help of the questioner. This will then allow you to address the question point by point, completely. Even if there's not an A-V handy, just simply paraphrasing the question (or questions) before you begin to answer will have two beneficial results: First, a paraphrase will help you figure out exactly what it is the questioner wants to know. Second, a paraphrase will help you buy time while you figure out what the answer is.
And if after all that you realize you don't know the answer to the question . . . ?
Ask if anyone else in the group knows the answer. (Be warned: If no one does, then you run the risk of you ALL looking somewhat stupid.)
Say, "That is an excellent question. Wish I had an excellent answer."
Say, "I don't know." (pause) "Does anyone else have a question I can't answer?"
Say, "I don't know that. But I do know how to find the area of a triangle."
Say, "I don't know, but I'll find out and get back to you."
Any other options? Send them to me and I'll publish them in next month's newsletter.
That's it for this month! If you enjoyed this newsletter please do pass it on to your friends. (Or send them to www.standuptrainer.com to get their own subscription. Why should YOU have to do everything for them?)
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