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How Can You Tell What They’re Thinking?
by Andrew E. Schwartz

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In elementary school, most of us asked questions which were for purely informational purposes. A raise of the hand usually got the attention of the teacher and the question was treated matter-of-factly. In training however, questions from the audience are rarely asked and when they are, they don’t get the attention they deserve. However, these questions, along with other indicators, can give a presentor an abundance of information to analyze their audience. It is crucial that presentors take these questions and other indicators seriously to avoid having their presentations become one-sided.

In training, audiences don’t just ask questions because they want information. In fact, simply needing information actually represent a small percentage of the motives behind audience questions. For example, an audience member is likely to ask a question because they may want to lead you and the discussion in a different direction. Someone might use a question to tell you something that they know. A trainee also might ask a question simply out of need for attention.

Regardless of the reasons they are asked, there are some specific ways to handle an audience’s questions. When questions are asked of you, the first and most important rule is to never try to fool an audience. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it, and offer to follow up with an answer later. Treat the question as sincere and answer it as adequately and honestly as possible. Listen carefully to questions and give trainees the attention they deserve.

Presentors are often asked questions when they haven’t asked the audience for them. This often catches presentors off guard, but may alert them to an area unintentionally left out of the presentation, or alert themto a new area of audience interest. Such an unsolicited question can throw a presentor off balance, but there are methods for handling it.


Andrew E. Schwartz, CEO, A.E. Schwartz & Associates of Boston, MA a comprehensive management training and professional development organization offering over 40 skills specific programs and practical solutions to today's business challenges.

Copyright, AE Schwartz & Associates. All rights reserved.
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