Do you know one of the kindest things that people in an audience can do for a presenter?  Simply ask questions.  It shows interest in the topic, an appreciation for the speaker, and often lets you know if there is any confusion within the audience.  Unfortunately, far too often, presenters are totally unaware of the opportunity at hand.

Because of an occasional bout of insecurity along with a desire to achieve credibility, the question is often gobbled up by presenters,and before you can say, “Rob’s your uncle,” the presenter has answered it. What a wasted opportunity!  There’s not one, but two classic approaches to addressing this.

The first approach is what’s referred to as a “reverse.”   The reverse technique is initiated by questions from the participants and might sound something like this:

Participant:     Uh, excuse me. What do you think is the best approach for us to use in our role-plays tomorrow morning?

Presenter:        That is a good question. What approach would you be leaning to?

Participant:     Well . . . I . . . uh, thought maybe the strategic tactical approach.

Presenter:        What benefits do you think could be gained by that tactic?

Participant:    We could use both processes taught and still be in a position to think on our feet if I we aren’t receiving the kind of information anticipated.

Presenter:        Excellent! I could not agree more. Allowing yourself the flexibility to react in the role-play should in fact be a major factor in the approach you select. Good job.

Often the participant has an answer, or at least a hunch.  When presenters are doing their jobs, reversing the question allows that participant to stay engaged and builds confidence in his or her decision-making.

A second approach is what’s referred to as a “relay.” The relay technique involves the presenter either taking a question or asking a question of their own but then simply moving that same question around the room getting input from other participants. Here’s an example:

Participant:     Uh, excuse me. What do you think is the best approach for us to use in our role-plays tomorrow morning?

Presenter:        That is a good question. What approach would the rest of you be leaning to?

Participant 1:  Maybe the strategic tactical approach.

Presenter:        Great.  That would offer some flexibility.  Any other suggestions?

Participant 2:  We could also use certain anchor statements in key areas of the role-play.

Presenter:        Excellent! So there are multiple approaches.  The key will be making sure the approach you choose lines up with the case study you will be working from.

By involving others, using the resources within the room, and prompting discussion, these two techniques sure look like winners.  There’s still one last step most presenters miss, however.  In both examples, you will notice the presenter adds support to the response where it is necessary, and in a way, puts the finishing touches on the participant’s response.

In the end, you are the subject matter expert, and the group looks to you for answers.  By applying your response at the end of the exchange, you’ll not only be validating the correct response for the group, you won’t have to feel vulnerable to a group that might be wondering if you actually do know the answer.  Certainly not every question needs to be reversed or relayed, but in many situations, it is a gold mine of an opportunity.  Just don’t forget to add the finishing touches to the responses you hear.





  • Don’t forget to make sure your local Barnes & Nobel or FedEx is carrying Why People Don’t Believe You, and while you’re at it, pick up a copy!
  • As a 30+ year professional speaker and trainer, one of the most common questions I get is, “How do we make sure the training sticks?” Last week I participated in a podcast with called, “SalesChats” with John Golden.  If you want to know why most training fails, listen up!
  • If you want to know, Why People Don’t Believe You, have a look and listen to BookPal’s interview with me here:

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