Are there any questions?
Crickets, absolute silence…
Your meeting would have had one person speaking most of the time (you). The themes may have varied, but let us assume that it was about the need to “pull up” or otherwise improve “team performance”. Doom, gloom and thunder have been demonstrated. Now you just finished with “Are there any questions ?”
Which foolhardy person is expected to take that missive at face value and actually ask a question? Probably a new recruit who in his previous life was part of some EI+ meetings (EI+ meetings were introduced in this post).
The “regulars” know better. You are not getting any response.
When do people feel safe to ask questions?
I would categorize the lack of questions as the signature of EI- meetings.
(EI- meetings are the opposite of EI+ meetings)
Without questions, the meeting is entirely one-sided. Quite possibly a very distorted message is understood, probably the wrong one.
Let’s say I was a participant, and I am wondering if I could ask for a clarification. But hey I do not want to give you the opportunity to bring more “shock and awe” into the room. I tell myself …it will be all over soon.
As the presenter you have some other ideas.. you do need some feedback.
You need(ed) to make the environment “safe” for people to venture to ask their questions, but then you have very little time left to undo the collateral damage that you left behind in the room. Do you have any options at all?
Well yes, you have a thin sliver of a chance.
Ask two questions.
The only two questions
You will start with the question that seems to work at most times… Pick any member of your audience and ask them.
How are we doing as a team?
Honestly, you expect hesitation, limited answers. Yes, you are listening.
Remember to do one more thing (if you are on camera) smile.
After you have heard the answer thank that courageous member of your audience.
Turn to another member and try the second question.
How are you feeling?
Go around the room with these two questions. Listen. Are the answers getting more open?
Now try again.
So the stuff I talked about earlier… Do we have any questions or suggestions?
What just happened?
You switched roles. By asking these questions, you have become a facilitator. Now you are helping to bring Emotional Intelligence back into this meeting.
“Being emotionally intelligent involves being actively able to identify, understand, process and influence one’s own emotions and those of others to guide feeling, thinking and action.”
For the next time
Remember that meetings have a purpose. They are not platforms for the presenter (you) to vent. They are a unique opportunity to ask questions and get undiluted feedback. If you see no one putting their hand up at the end of your presentation, then the EI in your meetings needs fixing. Get going! Ask your questions to help get your audience comfortable enough to ask theirs.