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:
I was at a live presentation the other day on "The Influence of Baroque Architecture on Papago Indian Dwellings (a hot topic in some circles) and I noticed that whenever the speaker—a very exuberant, energetic person—took a question from someone in the audience, he would not allow the questioner to actually finish the question before
Of course! I know exactly what you mean! I hate it too when that happens!
. . . but you didn't let me finish my question, Dr. S!
Oh, of course, my apologies, please finish your question.
As I was saying, the speaker seemed to jump on the question instead of waiting to hear
. . . all of the question? I know, I know, this happens to me all the time!
In my January 2007 newsletter, I discussed the reasons why some speakers exhibit this seemingly rude behavior during the Q&A. I believe the problem is not discourtesy—it's just a result of too much anxiety and enthusiasm. If you are at all worried about what sort of question you will get from your audience, then you may be delighted to discover, half-way through their question, that you think you MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE A GOOD ANSWER! This sudden joyful realization then causes you to start your answer while you're still feeling positive: "Away with the rest of your question!" you think. "Do not speak any more words that might cause me dismay. I am ready to answer NOW!"
So how do you prevent this common occurrence in your own presentations? When several of my students in my "Presentation Skills for Trainers" class last night exhibited this same behavior, I counseled them thusly:
Try to remain still and focused during the audience member's question or comment. Hold yourself very still (I actually clasp my hands to remind me to stay quiet), make eye contact with the responder (move in closer to them to be sure you hear them correctly), and (this is the hard part) WAIT for the entire question or comment to come out. Then, to be sure that you've given them enough time to respond, say something like, "That's a good question" or "Thanks for that comment." THEN answer the question or respond to the comment yourself.
One of my students commented that she was afraid of "dead air" in the room—and so she felt compelled to just keep talking all the time to fill up the void. I think many of us presenters (especially if we lean towards the "Entertainer" style of presenting) feel the same way. In the worst-case scenario, our Q&A ends like this: Arethereanyotherquestions?No?OKsincetherearenomorequestions . . . ." and we give the audience no chance to respond. I told this student about two techniques to help her deal with this "dead air" dread problem:
1. Remember the power . . . of the dramatic pause. Stop. Breathe. Look at your audience. THEN make the point. Don't rush it. Don't "throw away" the important stuff. Don't just be a speaker. Be an orator .
2. Try Elliott Massie's "Nine-Second Rule" for eliciting responses from the audience. (See my May 2006 newsletter for a complete description of this rule.) I am delighted to report that I have tried this technique on several occasions, and although I ABSOLUTELY HATE USING IT (nine seconds seems like ETERNITY when no one in the room is speaking) it always WORKS—after the full nine seconds, invariably someone puts forth a question or a comment. And that alone usually primes the pump sufficiently to get even more responses from the audience.
I've tried this technique very successfully in China , where I also have to wait and be patient while the interpreter translates my remarks into Chinese and then their responses into English. The goal is not to get through the presentation as quickly as possible, you know. It's to say something memorable .
I'm off again to Beijing in a week to teach a two-day presentation skills course to high-level officials of the National Development and Reform Commission of the People's Republic of China . I'll try to answer some of their questions in my future newsletters.
Any other options? Send them to me and I'll publish them in next month's newsletter.
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