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Real life lessons 1 – spot the ALLY in your audience
Dear All,
Truth is stranger than fiction. We come across so many interesting sessions during a training. I have given below one such episode. Please add your views.
A few days ago, I was waiting in the departure lounge at Bombay Airport after completing a hectic training session. As I was watching TV news, I heard someone say ‘excuse me Sir, so nice to see you’.
I turned back and it took a while for me to recognize she was one the old students from Soft Skills class batch of 2016. ‘Hey Neha what a pleasant surprise. What do you do nowadays?’
“I am just returning after finishing a training session”.
‘So nice. How did the session go?’
“Mostly OK but for one incident.
The topic was on Communications skill enhancement and I was some what stuck in a conversation.
The task was to choose the most appropriate answer to the question that was asked.
Where are you from?
(a) I am from Borivalli
(b) Basically, I am from Borivalli
(c) Actually, I am from Borivalli
(d) Naturally, I am from Borivalli
I told that the most appropriate answer is (a).
One participant did not agree and started saying that all the other three are also appropriate. I said (a) is appropriate.
He started arguing that it was his style of speaking and said it is similar to the sentences beginning with YOU KNOW, WELL, HUM etc. The dialogues between two of us was getting extended.”
‘Did not any one intervene I asked’
Yes, one person said that he can explain why (a) is appropriate. Seeing that some others also put up their hands.
I asked Neha what was your observation about the person who intervened. She paused and said "He was an ‘Assertive’ person as I had watched him during other interactions". I asked her to describe the behaviour of the person who intervened. She said “Aggressive” without doubt.
‘How did the session go thereafter’ I asked?
I said “we can discuss this later” and proceeded with the session. ‘Were you running short of time?’ I asked. She said time was not a constraint at that juncture.
I said ‘You missed an opportunity to spot an ALLY’. She raised her eye brows interrogatingly.
I said ‘You are well aware that in a training session all kinds people are present who exhibit different behavioural styles like Aggressive, Passive, Assertive, Neutral … Whenever you become involved and tend get into a long dialogue stop and change your method. You can find a friend, a tough person like the one now you have mentioned, and also many quiet type with CAT ON THE WALL philosophy. You are not alone in a training session. Find friends who will support your ideas (of course on the merit of the issue). Generally, with a reasonable connect, you can do it even within half an hour by which time you should make most of the people interact at-least once.
When two of you were exchanging ideas, no one had intervened. You know for sure that the Aggressor was not only inappropriate but was also trying to prolong unnecessarily. His intention of playing a hero is not well founded. However, since you had the time you could have let the Assertive person get into the dialogue. Perhaps others also would have given you more support. In all probability Aggressive would still tend to prolong. Appreciate that it was a healthy discussion mentioning that it could be continued after the training hours and proceed further. So, from the stance of a lawyer you have gone back to the role of trainer (or judge in this case if you like) and made a point. Remember that you can always call the final shot to stop a discussion on the basis of paucity of time at any time.
Now it is the time for me to leave to board my flight. It has been a good case study for me to share and we hope to meet again.”

From India

A very interesting anecdote Mr.Raghunathan!
As a public speaker one has to spontaneously take the audience with him/her right from the very beginning of the session particularly when it happens to be an interactive session irrespective of the subject-matter. When the trainer fields a question with multiple choices of answers and then straight away ticks one as the most appropriate, some self-opinionated people would naturally miss the context and start arguing by interpolating their own usual responses which were obviously unquestioned earlier. Instead, if the trainer explains the relative merits and demerits of the answers and then asks them collectively to select the one of their choice, their thought process would automatically become collective and there would not be any one-on-one situation. In my opinion, it is the best way of spotting the allies in any interactive session.

From India, Salem

Dear Sri Umakanthan,
It is a very good observation and a valuable input to the readers from your side.
I did not check with her whether she gave the answer instantaneously or after a small interaction with the audience.
You hit the nail on the head when speaking about the importance of the speaker/ trainer taking the audience with him as soon as possible.
While it is not uncommon to find attention seeking HEROS, your suggestion will give less chance for such persons.
Thank you for your valuable inputs and I hope the readers will take a note of your points.

From India

This anecdote is very interesting.There will be some person in the audience wo would like to draw attention to himself, his knowledge(in the process at times exposing his lack thereof) and his only theory.
Speakers judgement who in the audience is favourable makes a lot of difference.
Many a time speakers need to distinguish between a heckler and a person asking a difficult question.
Occassionally I do encounter hecklers while speaking.
I generally allow him to speak w/o interrupting him and then carry on from where i was interrupted as well as ignoring the interruption on the first time.
I just smile and tell him we will deal with your valid question at the end of the speech.
When on rare occasion I had to respond I address the whole audience by saying Mr X has this question or concern and try to make audience a party to the reply by even trying to get a member to respond.
Hecklers need to tackled psychologically and rationally and never in an emotional manner.
By experience you learn to judge the whole audience-are they with you or bored or hostile etc.
Public speaking is an art of how you convey the message in a manner that your message gets through,

From India, Pune

Dear Mr Nath Rao,
Good to see your views in this thread.
Throwing the question to the audience is another effective way of handling.
The rational approach suggested by you is very important as opposed to an emotional one.
Keeping cool does make matters easy to handle.
Thanks for your suggestions.

From India
Arif ur Rehman

Dear All:
In training sessions, allies or non-allies or a group in between, come to hone their skills - whatever the subject, whatever the professional or social make-up of the audience be.
Now by trying focusing on the different personality types individually and responding to them, your training session will be stalled.
Since the option a) was the most appropriate there should have been no debate. However, rationalize towards the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the other options. It's not a question of 'giving in ' or feeding 'one's ego' but bringing the audience on board.
If, as Trainers, our communication style in charismatic - certainly we need to be adept in the subject - then such 'issues' wouldn't arise. There may be some die-hards among the audience, but with spontaneous smiles and sympathy, coming from you, does the trick.
Remember the trainees are great people, and oft-times certain non-verbal cues string the violin.
Arif ur Rehman

From Pakistan, Karachi

Dear Mr Arif Ur Rehman,
It is very good to receive your opinion; with all the four decades of experience you have contributed your views from the audience perspective. It gels well and adds to the other thoughts presented.
Taking the audience with you is a must. It is a simultaneous activity as the session moves on. So there is no time lost on this account. Charisma is something developed over the years reputation spreading around aids that. However a budding trainer, like the one in our case, has to go through a tough path and every experience adds to the stature to become a seasoned trainer.
As I look back, in more than four decades that have passed in the Industry and Corporate offices, people playing the 'devils advocate' always exist. We have to find a tactful way of getting the better of them. All said and done the irrefutable maxim is that TRAINER SHOULD BE IN CONTROL OF THE SESSION AT ALL TIMES. While we all learn from all age groups, letting the session to be drifted away is undesirable.
Going further, the trainer has challenges to spot the silent, handle the talkative, get the digression personality back on track and so forth. The learning curve is a continuous one.
Thanks for sharing your views for the benefit of all readers,

From India
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