Gentle Bamboo Solutions

Good questions deserve Great answers

One of the most important skills a trainer/facilitator needs to have is of answering questions from participants.

You may be tempted to answer questions quickly and briefly, but sometimes there are opportunities for nuance that you shouldn’t skip.

Over the last several years I have been consciously approaching the Q&A  with this approach:

1. Give a different perspective that will have a bigger impact
2. Answer the question asked clearly
3. Use the keyword or phrase used in the question

Here’s an example:

I was doing a session titled Working with a Multi-Generational Workforce. At the end of the session, one of the managers asked, “Younger employees these days don’t care about wearing formal clothes no matter what the occasion. How do I convey the importance of formal clothes to them?”

My response was: 

“That’s a good question. I am glad you asked this. I will answer your question. Before that, let me tell you something.

“In the 1930s, formal clothes for men meant a double-breasted suit with a white shirt and a tie. The next generation decided it was too much, but they still wore a jacket suit with a white shirt and tie. The generation after that felt it was OK to do away with the jacket or the tie once in a while, and shirts of other colours are OK too. The generation after that – which is you and me – are now saying the same thing that everyone else has said of their children.

“Bring someone from 1930s and tell him that a pair of trousers and an ironed shirt means formal wear, and they will be scandalized. During those times, casual wear meant a shirt and a tie. The definition of what ‘formal’ means has been constantly changing. 

“We as a generation have a choice to get out of this petty conversation and worry about the work we do rather than the clothes we wear.

“That being said, if you really want to convey the importance of formal clothes, there’s a subtle way in which you can do that. Maybe have a formal dressing day once a week and make it as fun as the ethnic dressing day that you may do. During that day, have discussions about how it helps the perception of others when you dress appropriately. Be subtle about it, and you will make a difference.”

This answer follows everything I have outlined in the beginning. I am sure it had a bigger impact than me just sharing the last paragraph about the Formal Dressing Day. 

Don’t just answer questions. Instead, try to give learners a new perspective. It will help them better understand the context of their own question – and therefore your response has a bigger impact.

However, also give a clear answer to the specific question. It maintains your credibility.

Use keywords from the question. Observe the two phrases in italics – the question and the answer both start with “convey the importance of formal clothes”. If people drifted during your perspective-setting explanation, it will recapture their attention.

That’s how I do it. How do you answer questions?