This is why…
We get asked regularly “why aren’t I receiving questions after delivering my key messages on a call or presentation?” Most people have had the experience of finishing a talk or call and immediately asking for questions. Only to hear a judicious silence – okay then…
There are numerous explanations for this and a few techniques you can use to increase post-speaking engagement. I have cherry picked a few common reasons Why? and What to do? about them.
1. Over-subscribed calls – Specifically referring to dial-in’s or conference calls, there are too many people on them. Humans are selfish animals and can only tolerate information perceived as ‘not relevant’ for a short period. The upshot is that they self-satisfy by deleting and replying to emails (or browsing social media). Hence, when you ask for questions, their lack of focus on the topic prevents a good question. Sad, but true.
2. Searching for meaning – Rarely do listeners or audiences complain that meetings, calls or talks weren’t long enough. Mostly, it’s the opposite. The cause for this is often that the speaker’s core messages lack clarity, goes on too long or contains too much detail. Listeners have not been sufficiently stimulated to come up with useful questions and are unclear of the core message. Or, even worse, they aren’t going to ask a question because it will prolong the interaction.
3. Hijacked – This one is huge. Imagine you are listening to a really engaging talk with 50 peers. The talk finishes and immediately the speakers ask for questions. Psychologically your brain is scrambling. In this brief moment, you are asking yourself a lot of questions – a) What should I ask? b) Did they already mention that? c) Will I look like a tool if I ask that?… and on, and on. Bottom line: you don’t want to embarrass yourself by asking a daft question. Briefly, you are cognitively hijacked.
What to do?
1. Signposting & questions – Firstly, and obviously, be ruthless with who gets invited to the call – keep numbers to a minimum. Secondly, you can intermittently direct questions at certain parties to keep people on their toes and ensure it is a two-way highway, not one way. I suggest signposting that you are going to do this at the beginning of the call so as to not embarrass people. The apprehension of being asked a question by the speaker is more likely to attract engagement and questions.
2. The 10 second test – Many of our clients will be familiar with this phrase. To combat cluttered, muddled and verbose presentations, ask your one question before you start. ‘If I was only given 10 seconds to speak, what would I say?’ When you are forced to answer this question your brain takes the M1 straight to the point. Clarity of message follows clarity of thought. Therefore, lead with your critical information first and remember that if people want more detail, they’ll ask.
3. Airgap – Firstly, as you wind down your talk, give people some prior warning. The warning will allow them to get a head start on the cognitive race to find a good question. Secondly, when you’ve finished, tell the listeners you are going to give them 30 seconds to think about what questions they have. Then wait. Giving people a moment to digest your content allows them to formulate a question and be reassured they are not going to make a gaffe.