When I was in public education and started delivering professional development presentations and lessons to other teachers, I found myself nervous. I wanted to do a good job. I wasn’t sure I had enough experience. Many of the teachers I was presenting to were much older than me.
I was also nervous about being asked a tough question.
This fear was born out of two things. First, I was a bit of a hot-headed young professional, and relished asking hard hitting questions, sometimes just to be the person who asks hard questions (oops).
The second reason, is because I saw questions as a test, as a challenge, to the authority of the speaker.
I was quite wrong.
Questions, even tough ones, are gift-wrapped opportunities for any trainer, speaker, or leader. Consider the following:
- Questions are a wonderful example of engagement. Whether you’re leading a presentation, lesson, or meeting, you want your attendees to learn. Learning increases with engagement, and questions are a high form of engagement. This is a good thing!
- Questions help innovate. Everyone has blind spots in their understanding of a topic. Questions can help identify these blind spots, bring new ideas to the table, or approach a problem from a different perspective.
- Questions tell you where you went wrong. As a leader, trainer, or presenter, your job is to lead others on a journey from where they are, to where you want them to be. Questions help jump-start those who fell off the cart on the journey, get them back on track, and help you become more effective.
- Questions, or how you respond to them, set culture. Imagine an effective culture for your environment. Is fear, anger, sarcasm, or apathy a part of that environment? Probably not. How about enthusiasm, respect, energy, or collaboration? How you respond to questions sets the culture for your setting. Your response to questions should model what you want to see out of others.
Finally, it’s okay not to know an answer to a question! A question you don’t have an answer to is an opportunity to learn, innovate, and build a culture of knowledge. Modeling this learning, in the face of uncertainty, is imperative for any trainer, teacher, or leader.