I’ve preached the following words for years: When you’re having a conversation with someone, the more the other person speaks, the more trust they’ll have in you.  This is also true of an audience, and the best way to accomplish this task is to ask questions of your audience. It seems so simple, but there is one, potential landmine that awaits any presenter who asks questions to the audience. What happens if the answer to your question is wrong?  That incorrect answer to has the potential to create some rather significant issues.

  • It can demoralize the individual. Imagine you are the courageous soul who decides to answer that question thrown out by a trainer in a training session, and your answer is greeted with the words, “Oh, no – that’s not the answer I was looking for.  Would someone else like to take a shot at this?”  How would you feel if that was you in front of your peers, and you had just received a response like that?
  • It can demoralize the rest of the audience. Imagine you are in that audience and you hear one of your colleagues receive a response like the one you just read. You can tell your colleague looks wounded by the response and you, and those around you, will most likely feel sorry for the individual.  That’s not the recipe for creating a positive environment with your audience; you’re looking to engage them and have fun with them!
  • It can limit overall participation. Now that you are feeling sorry for the individual, and not particularly safe in the environment you are in, how likely would you be to take a shot at the next question that is thrown out to the group?
  • It can create the potential for snipers. Personally, I refuse to believe that people show up for a training session with the premeditated plan to be aggressive and disruptive, but when a presenter embarrasses a person in front of others, retaliation often comes from others… later. Those in attendance who are put-off by this kind of behavior do not want to appear argumentative or negative so they will often wait for the right opportunity, and when they see it, the presenter gets it right between the eyes. Maybe it is a controversial point, an unpopular stance the presenter must take, or something as simple as the misplacement of a handout. Rest assured, this homegrown sniper is now waiting to pounce. When they do, presenters are often left wondering, “Gee, what got into that person?”

It’s a tough situation, because you have a responsibility for making sure whatever you are presenting is covered correctly; you can’t just ignore a wrong answer.  Fortunately, there are a handful of ways to handle this situation professionally.

  • Watch your questions. I know we all got hammered in school by direct questions with right and wrong answers. I’m not saying you can’t eventually integrate questions like this once a group gets to know you and each other better. Until you’ve achieved that level of comfort, the safer bet is to stick to opinion-based questions that don’t force recipients into right and wrong answers.
  • Ask more questions. Often, when people don’t get the correct answer to a question asked, it can be traced back to not fully understanding the question.  If you don’t get the correct answer you were looking for, you can always take another shot or two at simplifying the question, or providing hints to the answer within your follow-up.
  • Rename the responses. One of my favorite approaches is to rename, or subtly change some of the words that make up the answer being received.  Perhaps the answer to a question you’re looking for is the state of Alabama, and the answer you get is the state of Georgia.  Instead of telling someone, “No.  Can someone else give it a try?” you might ask, “Well, you’re down south, right where I was hoping you’d go with that answer.  Let’s slide over a few states, put us in Alabama, and now you’ve got it!”

If you are presenter speaking in front of an audience, a manager speaking in front of a team, or simply an individual speaking to a group of people, getting others to participate will do wonders to how you and your message will be perceived. There just aren’t any options other than to engage your audience, and with that engagement comes risks.  Learning how to “right a wrong” answer will serve you well, if or when one of those engagements goes off the rails.





  • A big change coming for 2020I am launching my new podcast called, “Pocket Sized Pep Talks.”    Going through the approval process with iTunes, but get ready, because every other week we’re going to have some fun!  More information coming soon…
  • I had the privilege of sitting down and spending nearly an hour talking to Jay Izso, on his show, “A New Direction.”  We talked about a book I wrote a few years ago called, The Way of the Road Warrior, and the enormous challenge of balancing the work we do, and the families that support us while we do it.  So many of us struggle with one of the most fundamental needs of our families; our prescience.  Give it a listen – I’m quite sure you’ll enjoy it! https://www.jayizso.com/lessons-life-business-way-road-warrior-rob-jolles/
  • I’ve appeared on the Small Business Advocate Show with Jim Blasingame for almost 20 years now, and you’ll find dozens of our conversations on his website.  Here’s a link to over 100 interviews done over the years including my most recent that explores the myths and techniques involved in closing. https://www.smallbusinessadvocate.com/small-business-experts/rob-jolles-134
  • Clearly, I do my fair share of interviews, but this interview with  the Salesman Podcast was a lot of fun, and if you’re looking to Change Minds, one you should find interesting… https://www.salesman.org/the-simple-step-by-step-process-to-influence-anyone-with-rob-jolles/
  • Onward Nation:  https://predictiveroi.com/podcasts/rob-jolles/
  • As a 30+ year professional speaker and trainer, one of the most common questions I get is this: “How do we make sure the training sticks?”  Take a moment and listen to this podcast; “SalesChats” with John Golden.  If you want to know why most training fails, listen up! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR3dDOlTK7U&list=FLxBXKhqz0xBwbUPMqNthAJA&index=2&t=1293s


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