How to avoid getting caught off guard when training

Posted by Sean D'Souza on 27 Jun, 2011
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How to avoid getting caught off guard when training – Sean D’Souza Presentations Course from Wordtracker, the leading keyword research tool

If you’re a trainer, you’re going to get asked questions you don’t know the answer to. In part nine of his 12-part series on giving perfect presentations, Blackbelt Presentations author Sean D’Souza explains what to do.

If you’re a trainer, there’s one scenario that’s almost impossible to avoid. It’s the scenario where you see a hand going up.

The participant is about to ask a question.

There’s nothing wrong with the question, except that it’s out of left field. The participant is asking: How do I blazaboo the configulation spectroconfiture on the grinolatieur?


You’re trapped!

You have no clue what’s being asked.
 Or you probably have a vague idea, but you’re so tired that your brain refuses to function.

At this point, most presenters seem to hedge.

They either give a really crappy answer. 
Or they say: "I don’t know the answer. Let me get back to you."

And getting back to the participant is fine, but why postpone the answer?

It’s obvious you’ve been caught off guard. Why not get back onto the right footing again?

And how do you get back to your right footing?

Here’s what I do: I’ll turn to the audience. And I’ll say: “Does anyone have the answer to this question?”

And invariably someone will have an answer.

Now at this point something wonderful occurs.

Not only do we get one answer, but we get several answers. And the answers are rich in examples, or applications.

Often, the question will lead to other questions and angles that haven’t been considered before.

In fact, that’s what happened in one of our live workshops. A client called Claude asked a question regarding marketing schools.

I of course had no clue what to say. I haven’t marketed schools, and heck anyway, I was tired. I’d been on my feet for about two days, and a question out of the blue is like a bazooka aimed at your head.

So I simply turned over the question to the group.

And they came up with dozens of answers. Claude scribbled a sheet full of points. Points I could never have thought of, even if I was able to answer his question.

And when everyone had finished giving him this gusher of answers, I was able to chip in as well. I was able to summarize, and also give him yet another angle.

Which is why you never have to play know-it-all.

Or the ‘I’ll-get-back-to-you’ person either. You can simply turn the question over to the crowd, and the answers will pour forth.

But there’s a little clause you must pay attention to, before you begin your training. 
You need to make your audience feel safe.

I first create a safety zone in every workshop, training course or even on a course online. This means that the rest of the audience feels confident enough to pitch in.

And the way to create this safety zone is by announcing that it is a safe zone to begin with, and that no answers are silly answers, and that all discussions will be more than welcome.

Once you create the safety zone, you’ve set the stage for a great training session. But most of all when you see that hand going up, you don’t feel fear.

Because now you can just turn to the rest of the audience and get the answers you need. What’s more you end up creating an even greater safety zone.

And that’s an environment where learning and discussion really thrive!

So in conclusion:

1) Don’t hedge.

2) Turn the question over to the audience.

3) Make sure the audience is comfortable right from the start.

4) Use this method of turning the question to the audience several times over.

I sure do!

More great advice on presentations

This is part nine of a 12-part series on writing perfect presentations by Sean D’Souza, author of the Blackbelt Presentations. Further articles will be published in the coming weeks.

Read more about Sean D’Souza’s new Blackbelt Presentations series

Read Part 1: Simple steps to take the fear out of your presentation

Read Part 2: Why variation is the hallmark of outstanding presenters

Read Part 3: Do you quickly want to get the attention of your customers when you’re speaking?

Read Part 4: How to keep your audience coming back for more

Read Part 5: How to get your audience to remember what you said more

Read Part 6: Should you take questions at the end of your presentation?

Read Part 7: How the wrong example alienates your audience

Read Part 8: How to be a rock star presenter

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