Ask Yourself

Most trainers and presenters will structure their material around their key points.
So a trainer might be thinking - 'I must remember to:
- explain the context for today's training
- let them know what the benefits are
- introduce myself to the room.'
And this may work perfectly well.

However you can make life much easier for yourself and for your students, if, rather than structuring your thoughts around your prepared headings, like the ones above,
you structure your presentation around the questions that the students are likely to have in their heads.
So instead:
- Why am I here?
- What am I going to get out of today?
- Why am I listening to you?
These 3 questions cover the same material as the 3 purpose statements above them, but they have the double benefit of firstly;
viewing the presentation from the point of view of the listener (never a bad place to start)
and secondly;
creating an internal dialogue in the presenter's head, helping the mind to access the necessary information.

Sometimes, particularly when working with young people, they can quickly run out of things to say.
So I play a little game with them.
The game is 'But Why'
One person is charged with a very simple role;
to constantly respond with 'but why' to every statement made by the main speaker.
The main speaker is now required to 'answer' that question each time, which forces them to expand on their ideas, which in turn keeps the presentation flowing.
The point of the game is to teach the students to keep an internal dialogue alive in their minds while they are speaking:
(Why is this important? When did this happen? Who was there? How does this relate to my point?)

On one particular Train the Trainer course a student took this technique to a very literal extreme - with very great effect.
Instead of internalising the questions, the student actually spoke them aloud and then proceeded to answer them.
'Good morning, so why are we here today?...
The reason we are here is to …..
Now you may be wondering 'What is in it for me?'…
Well, what you will get out of today is….
And you may be thinking, why am I standing here?...
The reason is, I have been involved in this….etc'

From our perspective, listening to him, we had a sense that he was speaking with our point of view in mind.
From a technical, rhetorical perspective, the use of any form of question,
(whether you actually want an answer or not),
will always engage the listener's mind more effectively than a straight statement.
And from the presenter's perspective, he had found a very easy relaxed way of structuring his material, allowing his delivery to flow very naturally.

By using questions as the basis of your structure,
you can:
- put yourself more easily in your audience's shoes
- create a more relaxed, informal, conversational atmosphere
- and take some of the pressure off yourself by engaging your own brain in dialogue.

Many presenters say they prefer a 'Question and Answer' session to the Presentation itself.
Maybe it is because it is easier to respond to a dialogue than to remember a monologue.
We just need to create that dialogue in our own heads.
Wouldn't you agree?

This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.

To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here