The stage lights were positioned in the worst possible way - making it almost impossible for me to see my audience. I was silently wishing for a baseball cap but instead settled for squinting into the large auditorium. It is always important to me to be able to see my participants, but especially when I am about to ask a question. So I asked my question, stepped strategically into a less debilitating spot and peered out at my group to look for an answer.
Not a single hand was raised.
Is this a presenter's nightmare or an opportunity to boost your value? I choose to view it as an opportunity, and here's how you can, too.
1. If someone's hand is up immediately, we are tempted to call on that person and move forward. In doing so, we are cheating other participants from some "think time." If you truly want your audience to remember the information, they must have processing time.
2. Wait time, the seconds that elapse between asking a question and accepting a response, is critical for learners who process more slowly and deeply. This often includes members of your audience who are introverts. It may take them a bit longer to be ready to share their thoughts, but when they do, their answers are usually of higher quality than those of the speedy hand raisers.
3. If we ask, "Are there any questions?" and don't allow wait time, a fairly large portion of our audience will end up walking away with unanswered questions. Back on the job, these unanswered questions can turn into costly mistakes and failed initiatives. However, if you ask "What are the questions you still have?" and wait at least 5-8 seconds, you are sure to have a few surface.
Wait time is an essential skill for any presenter, manager or facilitator of adult learning. Try to practice your wait time skills this week by counting to 8 after asking a question. Become comfortable with the silence by remembering the value it creates.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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