Invariably, they feel that putting the trainer at unease is the best way to show off their superiority. Whether you permit them to do so by giving in or not or, worse still, confront them with an angry reaction, you end up the loser. Certainly, no one is the gainer in this unproductive game. So, the question arises: Is there another alternative action in this situation?
One of the most effective mantras in such cases is to keep cool and give the attention-seekers what they want – importance! You can point your questions to them, invite them to sum up discussions, and make them feel important. This strategy works in all circumstances, without fail!
Often, there is another, apparently harmless, group of participants found in a training session. This group consists of those who are physically present, but not involved. You may find these totally disengaged people sitting there with arms folded and lost in their own world. It may appear fine to leave them alone, but you cannot ignore them if you want your training to be effective. You might not call them problematic, because they are not actually creating any problem for you. However, you do need to encourage them to participate. The arrogant ones out of them will try to respond through rebellious comments, and you might feel like not speaking to them again. However, just think, how much handling such people successfully and keeping cool will add to your expertise!
Similarly, there is another, submissive section of participants. They need to be handled differently. The suggested prescription for them is encouragement and support. You need to be quite careful and selective in asking questions to them, avoiding too difficult ones, thus avoiding embarrassing situations for these shy people.
Now, coming to questions, some unnecessary and superfluous questions will always come your way from the very first kind of group I talked about. Apart from that, to be fair, there will always be some genuine questions, which may floor you. Hence, it is always a good idea to list down all the questions you anticipate and prepare your answers well in advance. You should not take this lightly because, in spite of your thorough preparation, there can still be unexpected questions. Prior preparation gives you confidence and adds ease to delivery. Practicing handling the queries aloud makes it a lot easier to face them on stage.
However, when you face a new question and are not sure how to handle it, you can cleverly throw it back on the enquirer, asking them what he/she feels about it. Alternatively, it can be put up in discussion mode, with the participants giving their own views. This will give you enough inputs and time to frame your own response.
Also, there is no harm in parking some questions aside to be addressed later. Certainly, if you are going to cover the same topic in subsequent sessions… and sparingly, if you really need time to breathe!
Ashok Grover is the Director of a resource development and consulting firm, Skillscape.