Hold your questions until the end: customizing my style for a interrupting audience

Nathanael Yellis By Nathanael Yellis • Last Updated May 18, 2021

One of my goals for 2015 is to present to an audience once a quarter. Owning your platform is something I coach people to do, and by practicing the art myself, my coaching stays well-informed.

Last night I showed some optimization tests, results, and lessons learned to an audience of political fundraisers.

I adapted this talk by adding additional signposts, making it overt and easy to note my major points. Increasing signposts was a result of some recent coaching conversations.

Yesterday morning, I found out one of my friends was in the audience for this day-long fundraising workshop. We exchanged s few text messages in the afternoon, which gave me a clue about how I could be more effective for the audience. A few of the earlier presenters had been taken off the rails by some aggressive and somewhat off-topic questioning, and then in order to complete their presentations, they'd gone well past their allotted time. That's a lose-lose.

Questions aren't a bad thing, and usually I take them in line with whatever I'm talking about, under the assumption that speaking to what the audience cares about is the best practice. In this case, other presenters had done that, and they'd been derailed. When only a few people in the room are asking the questions and the literally-silent majority becomes disinterested.

How did I face the feisty audience?

So I asked their permission to hold questions to the end.

Aside from clarifying questions, I presented and they listened. Not my normal flow, but for the 45 minutes I had the platform, we established this rule of engagement. It meant that I had to increase my energy to compensate for the lack of interactivity; and it meant that I had to honor the promise and actually save time for questions.

I did both and it worked. My energy level was high--this was one of the more exhausting presentations I've given in quite some time.

I talked for about 25 minutes, leaving almost half of our time for questions. The questions came steadily for the full 20 minutes, and there were hands still being raised when my time was done.

The bargain we made set up a win-win.

Platform ownership is owning your half of the bargain with the audience. When you do, they'll own theirs.

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