Thursday, March 31, 2011
What Questions Are you Answering?
My three-year-old daughter Brooklyn brought this to me today with a simple statement: "I drew this for you."
She's not much of an independent speaker, but is more than willing to answer questions, if I ask:
me: What is this?
B: It's a house
me: Who lives there?
B: All of Us
me: What are these green things?
B: Bushes....and its raining, and our house is getting clean, which is why I made the roof purple, and those are clouds, and that's us in front of the house....
Took a couple questions, but eventually, she went off on her own to tell me a story of sorts.
When we speak at an event, we are essentially doing what Brooklyn does - offering a piece of our work to someone hoping they like it, and can use it. Once Brooklyn realizes I'm interested, she not only answers the questions I've asked, but begins to elaborate.
As speakers, we can't just expect our audience to take what we give them and go put it on their refrigerator. And unlike an attentive dad, they will be more likely to simply ignore you, not ask questions to draw you out. You have to ask your own questions - both before the presentation, and during.
Before you speak - you need to really know what they need. While you speak, you have to be their voice, asking questions for them and answering them as you go along. Sure, at some point you may have Q&A, but you need to play both roles 'questioner' and 'answerer' to effectively get your point across to an audience that may not have the same agenda as you, the CEO, or the meeting planner.
Do your research. Interview people ahead of time to find out more specific needs of your audience. Check in with them during the speech with rhetorical questions. Watch their faces and their body language - are you answering the right questions? Remind them why they need to hear your answers. Otherwise, you'll just be handing them a drawing without explanation, Speaking - but not Delivering anything beyond words on paper.