Are there any questions? Q&A at the end?

When asked to conduct training, my energy level grows because of the expected interaction - the give and take - the ability to address specific needs of participants.

My hopes and energy are somewhat dashed when I am told that the "content delivery" will be xx minutes or x hours or days with xx minutes "at the end" for Q&A. My response - that the content will be delivered interactively throughout - is sometimes met with silence or questions: "Really? How do you do that?"

My experience is that Q&A at the end is standard in training, sometimes in facilitated sessions, and often in general sessions (if there is any interaction at all) or at public fora and programs.  [Note to the Newseum: the programs are so good; might we have a way to interact with each other and the speakers differently? To you too Sixth & I!]

My colleague and friend, Jeff Hurt [a recent blog], tells me that learning styles are not as important as brain-based learning information to help us design programs. I still like, especially for myself and my knowledge of how I, an aural learner, learn, to use the information. I think we need to use all the tools that help make learning better; Jeff's blogs do so much to help.

In a discussion about "everyday meetings" and the use of silence - especially as a facilitation technique - Stuart Malcolm Scott, another group participant, wrote about Q&A at the end. With his permission, I post his comments.


"I attended a conference last Friday. As the speaker fired up his PowerPoint slides, he expressed his wish to make the session interactive. I winced.

It’s not that I object to interaction. Quite the contrary. I’ll take conversation over monologue any day. But I’ve noticed a distressing pattern: presenters who express a hope for interaction seldom make room for it.

Sure enough, the speaker’s idea of interaction was to stop once in a while and ask “Are there any questions?” Then he’d pause for about two seconds and look around expectantly. When no one spoke, he dived back into his prepared remarks. The session wasn’t very interactive.

I guess two seconds of silence feel like eternity to some presenters. If they don’t hear a question right away, they get uncomfortable with the silence and carry on. To a listener, though, two seconds isn’t enough time to frame a response. If you really want people to speak up, try waiting 30 seconds for your listeners to gather their thoughts. Someone will probably break the silence.

Better yet, avoid asking “are there any questions.” When I ask an audience if they have any questions, I imply – in a subtle way – that they’re subordinate to me. I'm not really aware of this intention, but I know others are. I've created, unilaterally, the rules of the relationship. I'm allowing them only one kind of idea – a question. I'm allowing them only one kind of interaction – a request. I’m reminded of Oliver Twist in his Dickensian orphanage: “Please sir, may I have some more?”

OK, I exaggerate. But to allow people only to have questions fails to acknowledge them as my equals, as people with experience and insights and interesting ideas. I'm asking them to open up to me, but I haven’t made it safe to do so. I haven’t opened myself to receive anything from them. No wonder they keep their mouths shut.

I've learned that there’s a better way to get feedback from a group. All I have to say is “I’ll pause now to hear your feedback. What thoughts or ideas or concerns are you having about this?” This request for feedback creates an opening not only for questions, but also for opinions, hopes and wishes, fresh ideas, even disagreements. It invites people to enter into conversation with me. It shows that I respect them enough to care what they think.

In conclusion, if you want fresh air, throw the window open wide. If you want interaction, open yourself to any and all types of feedback.

I hope I’ve made myself clear.

Are there any questions?"


How do your audiences engage or not? In what ways are attendees taught to change their thinking and actions when they are used to Q&A at the end and become participants v. attendees? Why aren't speakers (this is for you, NSA!) and speakers bureaus, trainers and facilitators being taught more about interaction and silence?

Are there any questions?


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