Now that the elections are a week behind us and emotions have abated (maybe?) somewhat, I’d like you to look at what answering questions can do for your message. I want to be necessarily anti-partisan in this discussion and evaluation. From where I sit, this discourse has NOTHING to do with the stakes, the views, or the perceived implications of the election. I’m simply making observations about the delivery skill involved and what that says to an audience looking for answers.I first heard this press conference on the radio – there we miss facial expressions and non-verbal communication. Pauses and non-words have a LOT more meaning in an audio-only environment. Those that have taken my Powerful, Persuasive Speaking class are painfully aware of non-words, and should know how (and be able) to avoid them. Q&A is so dangerous to the speaker because the answers are almost necessarily not scripted, and there is precious little time to develop an answer. Our delivery response will drive people’s perceptions about our trust, confidence, and believability.If you don’t have 56 minutes to devote to the entire press conference, watch from the 6 minute mark to the 12 minute mark, and whatever else past that point you have time for. See what changes, if any, you see in the delivery when questions start, and what you think a non-partisan voter would deduce from that message.I’ll make some general comments in a later post, but I really want you to figure this out for yourself. By the way, you can read the entire transcript at the White House web site, but they notably remove the non-words and pauses from the answers 🙂 In this, the YouTube Generation, precious few people will read this press conference, but millions will hear and watch. What do you see? Hear?Consider this as well: What questions would you expect if you were President Obama (or his advisor)? What answer(s) would you give or prepare? What coaching would you give in the delivery of these answers?
I believe Q&A presents the greatest chance for undermining our message. Sales persons, teacher/trainers, and customer-facing employees have a HUGE risk when the audience starts to ask questions. The President’s re-election hangs on this skill.If you face Q&A in your world, there are easy techniques available to polish your answers and deliver in such a way to establish credibility. You might consider MillsWyck Communications’ public course next week, Powerful, Persuasive Answers. It will give you those skills, as well as a chance to practice in a safe environment.
Q&A is a high-stakes environment. Don’t undertake them without skill and preparation.