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ASK, NOT TELL

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PQF #2 – ‘Ask an “answerable” question at the start’

Updated: Mar 5

Underlying Problem – Presentation to a lot of people in organisations that I have worked is equal to ‘I tell you something’. They would maintain an one-way traffic all the way till the end (or the ‘Q&A session’). They miss the need to involve the audience. As I discussed here before, interaction is important to effective presentation or training, and especially facilitation. Click here to see my post in why interaction is important.


Ideally, presenters should initiate interaction from time to time during the presentation. And we should use various ways to achieve interaction e.g. questioning, activity, case study, group discussion, game….. Well, again, my training experience told me that it is not easy to do this in a short period of time. So, here is the quick fix.


Quick Fix – ‘Ask an “answerable” question at the start’. Prepare an “answerable question” in advance and ask it after you introduce yourself. What do I mean by an “answerable question”?


1. low risk – The risk of being embarrassed in answering the question should be low. In other words, either most should know the answer, or that there is no right or wrong answer. For example, when you try to arouse interaction in a Compliance presentation, you would like to avoid asking ‘Please tell me which PBOC policy is related to arrangement re Large and Suspicious transaction.’ (… it is not easy to answer…) or ‘Raise your hand if you have read the latest policy re Large and Suspicious transaction.’ (… it could be embarrassing since probably most have not read it..). Instead, you could ask ‘Imagine you were the regulator, how large the transaction amount should be in order to be considered a Large transaction’. And then you write down 3 choices on the flipchart against which people will raise hand to indicate their choices.


2. Large Scale Participation – This leads to the second attribute of an “answerable question”. It should easily allow large scale participation e.g. those which allow the audience to raise hand, or those exciting enough which people will shout out the answer (note that in China, or Asia, people are more reserved to speak up, especially at the start). Again, example. You will avoid asking ‘What could the bank do in order to comply the latest Anti-money laundering policy?’. Instead, you will ask ‘Which of the following should the bank do in order to comply the latest AML policy? A. Quit the business. B. Fire those who do not understand the policy. C. All related colleague to study the policy well.’ And remember, you do not just stop and wait for the answer after stating the options. You need to facilitate the hand-raising. You will say ‘OK, now you know the options. Please raise your hand if you pick A……’.


By large scale participation, I also mean you will ask the question in a way which shows interaction, and thus warm up the atmosphere. For example, you want to show that there is thing in life which people know the importance but just do not do it. You ask ‘Raise your hand if you have paid attention to the safety demonstration last time when you were on the plane’. Of course, most will not raise their hands. Instead, you will ask ‘Raise your hand if you have NOT paid attention to the safety demonstration last time when you were on the plane’. Most will raise their hands in this case. People see the hands in the air, and the atmosphere gets warmed up gradually.


3. Fun – it should be fun to answer the question. Simple, people like to have fun. And adult learns better with fun. The above 3 examples show how fun can be added in the questions.

So, what is your “answerable” question for your coming presentation? Spend 10 mins whilst you are commuting to work, and you will have one!!


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