Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Communication Tip Number 119: You're Probably Making Your Audience Feel Dumb and Aren't Even Aware of It

A few months back I interviewed with a company out west. There I was, sitting with one of the sales people and I had their undivided attention for half an hour. As the interview began to approach the end, we hit the question and answer period. You know the piece. It's the point in the interview when the interviewer asks if you have any other questions that they can answer.

Well, I had several questions and proceeded to ask them. After one particular question, the interviewer thought for a moment and replied, “… that’s a very good question” before proceeding to answer the question.

Now I know that some people will use this particular speech pattern to buy themselves some time to collect their thoughts. However, that did not stop me from thinking, “I guess the rest of the questions I asked weren’t good questions.”

During my testing to become a Dale Carnegie Instructor, this is one point that the master trainer drilled into us newbie trainers. It is also one of the presentation tips covered in the High Impact Presentations program. When you grade a question with a statement like “that’s a very good question”, you are making the rest of the audience feel a little less smart.

Now, this point isn’t isolated to delivering a presentation or being an instructor. It certainly had relevance during my interview. And think about your next sales call when you in a one-on-one situation with a prospect. Will you sit there and tell them that one of their questions was very good and the others were, well, not so good? What about the next performance review you’ll be conducting?

So what do you say instead?

We cover a number of strategies in the High Impact Presentations program. One of them is to paraphrase the question back to the person who asked it. This way, you can insure that you both have agreement on understanding the question. In a larger audience, repeating the question also insure that everyone else understands the question as well.

As with any strategy, you will need to determine the appropriate time and frequency on its use. And as with any skill that you are developing, expertise comes with practice and coaching.

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