In 1944 when the Germans were deporting Jews, Raoul Wallenberg a young Swedish diplomat would climb on top of freight trains and run along the cars handing out documents, fake but real enough to convince the Nazis that the recipients were under Swedish protection. Wallenberg would then jump off the train and demand that these people be released with him. On one occasion, the German soldiers were instructed to shoot Wallenberg on sight, but impressed by his courage they shot over his head as a warning instead. How Raoul Wallenberg a young man from one of Sweden’s most prominent families ended up saving tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust is a story of ingenuity, courage and chutzpah. Sadly his own fate remains unknown.
Every day on my way to work I pass a small park that says ‘Raoul Wallenberg reserve’ and never thought much about it, until I recently learnt about his heroism when the Australian Government announced that they were recognising him as Australia’s first honorary citizen.
More recently Charles Ramsey (pictured above) became a national hero in America. Ramsey was famously eating McDonald’s on his porch when he heard cries for help and went to investigate and helped break down a door to rescue Amanda Berry and two other women who had been held captive for a decade in a cellar in Ohio, Cleveland. Ramsey offered a ray of hope in a bleak, dark story and dealt with the attention using humour even saying ‘I knew something was wrong when a white girl ran straight into a black man’s arms’!
Of course given the age we live in, Ramsey has become an immediate Internet sensation with McDonald’s saluting him on twitter, YouTube videos etc. Even his employer Hodge’s Cleveland, the local restaurant where he works as a dishwasher, has started making “Cleveland’s Hero” T-shirts featuring Ramsey’s face. Proceeds from the shirts will go to the victims. One fan has had Ramsey’s face tattooed on his leg, giving hero worship a whole new meaning. Ramsey immediately dismissed any offer of the reward money saying that he just did the right thing, adding ‘Give it to the girls’.
And closer to home an everyday scenario that would test the hero in us. It seemed just like another day on Wooloowin platform in Brisbane’s north side, when a passenger waiting on the platform slipped and fell on the tracks, minutes before the arrival of the next train. Student nurse, Kate Ashby made a split second decision and jumped on the tracks to rescue the man, saving a life but risking her own to do so. Kate when interviewed said she was acting on instinct but also how she rang her classmates later to say she would be late but had a good excuse! Kate Ashby is being commended for her bravery. In this chilling footage we witness how Kate takes the lead and this energises other passengers who are probably in shock to help.
Sadly it doesn’t often turn out well for heroes. In 2007, Brendan Keilar a Melbourne city solicitor, was killed in front of horrified rush-hour CBD bystanders after he tried to intervene in an altercation involving a gunman and a young woman. It was heart breaking seeing images of his young children at his funeral a few days later and also moving watching his 9 year old son accepting a bravery award for his father’s heroic actions a year later.
Interestingly a psychologist interviewed on TV said while we all like to imagine we would do the right thing, we simply can’t predict how we would respond unless we are in the actual situation. So in situations like this would you freeze, flee or step in and be a hero? I’m unsure how I would respond, I do know one thing for sure though. People like Raoul Wallenberg, Charles Ramsey, Kate Ashby & Brendan Keilar make me proud to be human…and that’s not something we get to feel often.
In the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” Ben Stein plays a dorkish economics teacher who always interrupts his lectures by asking questions with the infamous words ‘Anyone? anyone? anyone?’ The camera pans to a sea of bored students. Ben Stein proceeds to always answer his own questions! It’s both funny and a cautionary tale for how NOT to tackle questions when you are presenting. So here are our top tips on posing questions as part of your presentation.
Steer clear of the infamous ‘Any questions’.
This is the worst way to ask for questions as it is too broad and causes people’s minds to spin into infinity. Instead ask for any comments, observations or questions. This gives people some options. Or you could be specific, and say ‘I’d be happy to take questions on X, Y or Z’. We often present on Business Storytelling so our version of this is ‘We are happy to answer your questions on storytelling in leadership or storytelling in sales’. This gives your audience a starting point and also directs the flow of questions.
The biggest fear that presenters have with asking for questions is that they may not know the answer. Relax, it’s perfectly OK not to know the answer to everything, you are not Google! When you don’t know the answer, what matters is how you handle the situation. You can say ‘I don’t have an answer for you now, but happy to research this and get back to you’. The worst thing you can do is fumble and spin your way through an answer. Doing that can destroy the impact of your presentation.
Sometimes, people will ask an obscure question, or for something so specific that is relevant only to them. They want to disappear down rabbit holes and take you with them. You don’t have to answer every question you are asked! In response we will often to say ‘That is the perfect question to solve over a glass of wine, so happy to chat with you after’, if it is irrelevant to the presentation you might say ‘I am not an expert of X, but I’m sure there is someone in the audience who is an expert and would be happy to chat with you after’. Be tactful when handling this as you do not want to deter the rest of the audience from asking further questions.
Never end on any questions
Ending on ‘any question’s leaves the end of your presentation to chance. The last questions might be a curly one, or not the final message you want to leave your audience with. So always allot time for the Q&A and pull back by saying “I will take one more question’ before wrapping up. Then make sure you end on message.
So do you have any comments, observations or questions on this post? I would be happy to hear how you have tackled questions when you present.
As Claude Levi – Strauss said “The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions.” Use these strategies to get your audience asking the right questions.