By guest blogger – Gavin Meikle BSc
Almost 20 years ago when I was coaching on a Neuro Linguistic Programming course in London one of my students said that their alternative name for NLP was “The Gift of a Question”, and for some reason that phrase has stuck with me ever since.
Questions are amazingly powerful tools and can literally change lives. As a trainer and coach, I have seen first-hand how a question can unlock awareness and understanding in others. But what if there was one question that you could always use to help yourself?
I was once put on the spot during an impromptu public speaking session when I was asked to speak, for two minutes, without any preparation on “The Most Useful Question We Can Ask Ourselves?” How’s that for a mind-blowing question!
But you know what, an idea popped into my head that just made sense. And judging by the comments afterwards, it made sense to my audience as well. It’s a question that I keep finding new applications for and it seldom if ever fails to help me.
So are you curious? Would you like to know this compelling question is? Well, I’ll tell you in a minute, but before I do, let me link it to a subject that is close to my heart, namely presentation skills.
Before I became a public speaking coach, I worked for a large multinational and, like most people within such large organisations, I had to sit through way too many dull, boring presentations and speeches. In fact, I used to wonder why so many people had the knack of making presentations so mind-numbingly bad. Surely they didn’t intend to put their audience to sleep!
And then one day I was coaching a couple of C-Suite Directors on their presentation skills it all became clear. I just asked them my favourite question, and their response stunned me, and then I realised that it explained why so many presentations are terrible.
The question I asked was “So what would you like your audience to do after your presentation?” I thought it was a simple question but they were flummoxed. After a long pause, the Operations Director admitted that he had never considered that his audience might do something as a result of his presentation. His outcome it seemed was to survive. To fill an allotted slot of time without making a fool of himself. And then it dawned on me that this is also true for most presenters.
So today, I recommend that every speaker starts their speech preparation by asking themselves the question “What do I want my audience to do as a result of my presentation”. And, if your answer is something like “Understand what I am speaking about”, ask yourself if that is enough? Don’t you want them to do something?
Only once you have a clear audience action then, can you put together a case that will motivate them to take that action.
Now that you understand it, I imagine that you can already start to think of other situations where you could use my favourite question…
How about before you write a report or a blog post like this one? Wouldn’t it make sense to use t before you go into a sales call or before you pick up the phone to talk to a colleague or a supplier? The applications of this little question are endless.
Gavin Meikle BSc. is the founder of Inter-activ. Prior to setting up his training company in 1998, Gavin had a long and successful career in the Pharmaceutical Industry as sales representative, sales trainer and sales manager. In parallel with his career, Gavin was an active member, trainer and leader within JCI, the international self-development organisation. He taught extensively within the UK and abroad.
Prior to setting up inter-activ, Gavin became aware that communication was at the heart of business success and so he studied effective communication extensively before forming inter-activ presenting & influencing. For more information go to http://www.inter-activ.co.uk/