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Keeping events on target

Hi all!

We've all been there: You're looking forward to an exciting presentation! The day arrives, you even show up early just to be sure you have a good seat. The event starts off great and you're learning a lot, taking notes and enjoying the chance to connect with other people who deal with problems you've faced yourself.

At some point, a question or comment takes things off track. Rather than addressing it briefly and moving on, the presenter allows the question to derail their talk and follow the tangent to a new, unplanned destination. Your stomach sinks as you slowly realize: This topic will probably take up the rest of the talk.

By the end, you're dissatisfied and frustrated. After taking time out of your day to attend an event, it turns out that the event didn't even focus on the promised topic! It could all have been avoided if the speaker had returned to their presentation promptly instead of pursuing the line of conversation.

What did you learn from the experience? How would you have run things differently?

As a speaker, how do you fully answer audience questions without getting sidetracked?



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Peter Van de Voorde
Community Leader
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September 30, 2022

I have over a decade of experience with public speaking, and this is my 2 cents:

  1. As an audience member there is little you can do about this. 

  2. As an organizer you could step in and ask the audience member to come up to the speaker and continue the discussion after the session so that the session can continue for the rest of the audience. You could even discuss this scenario with your speakers before the event.

  3. But mostly this is something the speaker should handle. I always coached new speakers into either asking to wait with questions till the end of the session or to say something along the lines of "That is an interesting question that requires more time than we have right now, can you please come talk to me after the session?".
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Luke Hostetler October 3, 2022

That's great perspective, Peter! I'd agree, either solution can work well depending on your group, format, amount of time available and a whole lot of other factors.

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