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What do I do when a question falls flat?

Project the movie you want to see

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you’re facilitating a meeting, and it’s going pretty well. People are talking and engaging, but then you ask a question. And poof - you’ve lost them. No one says a word. It’s crickets. 🦗

What do you do!? Do you make a joke? Or name the elephant?

If you’re like most of us, your impulse is probably to 🥶 freeze and 🧠 start getting in your head:

Uh oh.

They’re all checking email.

They don’t want to be in this conversation.

I’m wasting their time.

They feel like they can’t speak up.

They think I’m doing a terrible job.

When your mind starts to go there, you need to remember two things:

1️⃣ Working remotely means you are by yourself. And when left to your own devices, it’s easy to get stuck in your head, projecting all kinds of things that might not be there at all. All of your worst thoughts and fears are more than likely completely untrue.

2️⃣ Your energy will have a direct effect on the conversation. If you are stressed, you will stress people out. If you are rushed, they will feel rushed. If you are unsure and hiding it, they will be unsure and hide it as well. Facilitation means modeling the communication you want to see.

Sometime these two facilitation truths can require you to fake it until you make it. Next time a question falls flat, take a deep breath and remind yourself that facilitation is hard and you’re doing a great job. And then project the movie you want to see 🎥: model the relaxed, engaged, and contributing energy you want back from the group

👂This might look like you smiling and saying, “Okay, let me try to rephrase that question in a different way.”

👂 Or it might mean inviting creative energy from the group by saying, “Huh, let’s think of a different way to approach this question.

👂 It might even mean being relaxed and flexible enough to cheerfully say, “OK! Let’s move on since this topic seems to have wrapped up.”

As facilitators, our minds can be our own worst enemy. The best way to get out of your head and back in the game? Project the energy you want back from your participants. It might just surprise you how well the movie ends. 🎬

I’m guessing you’re here because you want to get better at leading groups, improve your meeting culture, and maybe even organise some great events.

Well, you’re in the right place!

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