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How to Handle Tough Questions (and Comments) from an Audience

Please don’t get me wrong—whatever skills I possess in this department today have come to me only through the bitter pain of seemingly countless public speaking events or classroom training sessions where I vainly attempted to fake my way through questions to which I did not know the answers—much to the detriment of both me and my students.

I strongly believe that the ability to deal maturely with questions to which a speaker does not know the answer is one of the hallmarks of a gifted orator. In today’s installment of MTA I will pass along some of the wisdom imparted to me by my teachers that has kept me in good stead over the past decade.

He begins by pointing you to Clarence Dang’s Blog post, “How to Dodge Questions”, an interesting perspective on responding to questions you would rather not answer directly.

I’ve talked a lot about different methods of responding to comments, including mean spirited comments, and I really enjoyed Tim’s comments and recommendations on how to respond to comments and questions from an audience.

One of my favorite “tools” when I’m facing questions during one of my lectures or public speaking events is called “redirection”. I have also used it in my blog’s comments. Tim gives a great example on this:

Question redirection is a super trick that should be a part of every expert instructor’s toolkit. Personally, it has saved my butt on many, many occasions. Here is how it works:

Student 1 (Jon): Tim, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1970?

Tim: Jon, you just provided the class with a wonderful learning experience. Who here knows who won the Kentucky Derby in 1970?

Student 2 (Janice): I’m positive it was Dust Commander.

Tim: Thanks, Janice. There’s your answer, Jon. See what a wealth of information we have in our class?

What’s great about the question redirection method is that it:

* Allows for peer-to-peer interaction among audience/class members
* Allows the teacher to maintain his her or her credibility :)

Excellent advice!

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

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2 Comments

  1. Posted July 24, 2006 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    hehe.. well it’ll work with a professor, but what about us, the students itself :P. I wish we could say that when our prof asks us a question.
    ‘Sir, what a wonderful question, who knows the answer’… ‘Ahh.. Sir, you just proved that we have a wealth of info in our class :P

  2. Posted July 24, 2006 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    How about the mentally deranged, the racists and the nazis?

    Speaking of emotional intelligence, I came out with 0 for emotion and 24/24 for thinking on the meyers-briggs test.

    So I can pretty much fake being a computer if I wanted to.

    Press any key to cotinue …


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] How to Handle Tough Questions (and Comments) from an Audience [...]

  2. [...] people don’t notice when I actually don’t know the answer to a question. They think I’m just creating a peer teaching moment, making me look utterly brilliant. When I get caught, I tend not to lose face because I’m fairly [...]

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