Show Them They Can

At the end of a fairly intense section of training on storytelling and presentation skills, just before we went for a break, I thought it wise to quickly ask a couple of re-cap questions.
Well – it is a good thing to do anyway, to make sure that key points are being taken on board,
but at this moment we had just had an intense session where a lot of key principles - and to some of the students, very new principles - had been demonstrated, shared and discussed.

Being aware that we had just covered a lot of information, and fearing it might all have seemed a little overwhelming, I briefly said:
‘Just before we break, let’s see if this is all making sense.  A couple of quick questions on what we have done:
1.   ‘If you want to make sure that your voice is staying active, varied and interesting, what connection do you need to keep, while speaking?
They answer: ‘Hands and voice working together.’
(we had spent a lot of time on this – so that was an easy answer for them to recall)

2.   ‘Eye contact achieves three things:
 -  It keeps the connection alive;
 -  it makes you seem confident and
 -  ..…?
They answer: ‘It makes you seem honest.’

I then asked a third question, (which depending on the level of confidence or knowledge in the room, may be a bit more challenging, to test them a bit more).

And they went to the break happy.

In those few moments what have I done; what have I achieved?

  • I have to cut through the mass of information we had covered to highlight the key messages I wanted them to take away from that first session;
  • I have got those answers directly from them, rather than me having to say them, which meant they got the encouragement and confidence of walking off to break thinking:
    ‘Yes we are working this out.’
  • I have built my credibility as a trainer in their eyes, because by prompting them to give the right answers, they walk away thinking:
    ‘This trainer certainly knows what he is doing. - He is helping!’


Try it just before a break.
At least 2 of those questions must be relatively easy to answer, to give confidence.
You want the right answers, but you also want them to feel encouraged.
Therefore, don’t ask very challenging complicated questions that make them feel foolish when they don’t know the answer.

You don’t want them walking off to break thinking:
‘This is hard; we are stupid.’

Let them walk away thinking:

‘I can do this.
This training is making a difference.’
because they will then probably come back after the break eager to learn more!

In a nutshell:

A quick summary at the end of a section gives the students an easy win: it builds their confidence; it reassures them that they are learning, and convinces them that you know what you are doing.

This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.

To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here