You've just finished your teleclass and you're moving on to question stage. And then comes the moment that you think you'll be flooded with questions, so you ask, “What questions would you like to ask me today?” And all you hear is the chilly wind of silence.
So how do you get the audience to respond anyway?
The core of teaching is understanding what the audience is learning
So if you're holding a teleseminar and giving your customers some new information; something that they haven't heard of before, here is what's happening: Imagine you're on the water with another surfer (your customers), waiting to surf the waves. And when the first wave comes along, your customer decides to surf it.
But hang on, there are two hundred waves after that wave. And you're still in the water waiting to catch the right wave. But the customer is long gone on the first wave.
The same occurence takes place with a customer on the other end of the line
They're not quiet because they've run out questions. The information that they've got is suddenly so overwhelming, that you're in the ocean and they're out on the beach. And the gulf between the two of you is enormous.
So the key to presentation, is knowing that there's going to be an awkward silence simply because the customers are too busy absorbing it. That's only part of the problem. The second part is the factor of thinking up the question, and then getting the nerve to answer the question.
In a live audience situation, only a skilled presenter can get the entire audience to talk freely. But even a skilled presenter can struggle with a teleconference. You see, you can't see your public and they know that very well.
So why doesn't your audience speak?
1) Too much new information:
Because the information is too fast. They've got to absorb it. You're all nervous about the lack of response. They're just coping with the new data.
2) Not enough repetition:
Notice how I've repeated facts here. I've said the same thing thrice in a very short set of paragraphs. Repetition, is the key to learning. So learn to sum up things, learn to round up stuff, so that the audience is in line with where you are. And can absorb your questions.
3) Introducing the Safe Zone:
In my workshops worldwide, I always announce the ‘safe zone'. I always tell customers that they're in a safe zone. And then I make sure that they feel safe. This means introverts (who are often petrified of speaking) will speak freely. It's a system of gently getting your audience to know that you will not ridicule them.
And that neither will anyone else. But you say, “I'd never ridicule my audience.” Haven't you seen a teacher ridicule a student? You may not have been that student, but you remember that situation all the same. You have to go out on a limb and make sure that you tell them, “This is a safe zone. There's no such thing as a silly question.” And that will calm your audience down. And get them more participative.
4) Group Silence or Group Noise:
There's a factor of group quiet-or group noise. When in a group, audiences work the same way. If you ask “Does anyone have questions” and no one answers, then no one will ask questions. If someone asks a question, suddenly you're fighting questions. So it's important to (especially with a smaller group) to pick names.
“Jane, what was the hardest part of today's learning?” “Bruce, where do you think you can put this to work in your business”. Notice I'm not just picking on audience members (which is vital) but I'm also asking them a question that they will find easy to answer. Again, lack of threat. There's nothing that Jane or Bruce can say that will make them seem foolish, so they answer the question. And the safety factor is created.
If you're dealing with a large group, and don't know their names, or don't even know how many people are on the call, then you can still break the ice by asking someone to share their biggest learning on the call.
5) How to Test the Waters:
Admittedly, there will be times when you don't have questions. You can work this out, by testing the waters. Don't always wait for the question session at the end. When you finish one section (out of three major sections) you should ask, if anyone has questions. If no one answers, move on to the second section. Again, ask: Any one has any questions”? Again if there's no answer, what do you think is going to happen the third time? Yeah you got it–no questions. So if you don't test the waters, you will never know what to expect.
6) How To Use Repetition to Create The Safety Zone:
What should you do then? Well, don't panic. The group may not have questions, but as we now know, they have ideas that they've learned from the session—and make sure to use repetition. So call on the individuals. Ask them: “Jim, what was your biggest learning?” And then after Jim answers, then move to Bruce with the SAME question.
Again, you're creating safety. Martha, Maria, John, Alisha and everyone else on the call know exactly what's going to come next, so they're mentally prepared. And you get a whole lot of sharing and also a whole bunch of satisfied customers who've learned something–because they just told you what they learned. So not only have they summarised your speech, but they've also created the warm feeling of learning.
7) How to Get Names From A Big Group:
But how do you know about Martha, Maria, Jim, John and Alisha? Why that's easy. You get on the call before it's due to begin. And there are always a few early birds. Start a conversation with them. And ask for their names. You'll get at least 3-4 names in under 5 minutes. A good starting point of discussion is always the weather. Talk about the weather and quite a few folk will jump in. Ask their names, and jot it down on a piece of paper.
Just remember, in most cases, the participants that turn up first are the most eager of the lot, and will be there till the end. So you have a pretty good chance of having them on the line when you ask for comments or questions. And they'll know you know their names, so they'll be more likely to answer.
Take these steps, and get rid of the sound of silence forever.
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Thanks Sean – this one is so good I put it on Twitter, Facebook, and Delicious! It contains some simple – but powerful tips on helping people, like me, who teach online.
Sean D'Souza says
Thanks Phyllis 🙂