Have you ever asked a large audience for feedback at the end of a meeting and gotten crickets??? If so, how long did you sit in silence before your nerves broke down and you filled in the dead space with your own comment? If that sounds even remotely familiar please keep reading to ensure that never happens to you again, because a non-expressive debrief is 100% YOUR FAULT!
The debrief is a crucial element to most presentations. Unfortunately, many people view it as a throw away and do not put the same preparation into attacking that portion of their time with a group even though some of the deepest learnings can come from interactions at the end. It is important as a facilitator that you seek to understand if your message got through to your audience and that you attained some type of fluency. When you are writing your presentation out always make sure that you schedule in time for the debrief and follow these simple steps to ensure that you get valid participation.
Stop putting yourself into bad situations…Set yourself up for success!
Many facilitators get to the ends of a presentation and ask wide-ranging blanket statements that are too broad to extract solid answers from a group. Examples would be:
“So what did you all think of the meeting?”
“Let me ask you; was there anything from today’s discussion that stuck out?”
“Thank you again for having me, any feedback you would want to give me on the presentation?”
The key to setting yourself up into a good debrief is to have great questions that will pull specific answers out to spark conversation. However, just having great questions is not enough; you must force your listener into some type of action request before you have them answer you. Here would be examples based on the three above:
“Before we go, I want to ask you all to do me a favor. I want you to break off in pairs and share your major take-aways from the meeting today. The catch is that when I bring us back together to share, you will need to share what your partner said, so make sure to listen!”
“Before we break today I want to ask you for one last thing. Close your eyes and take 30 seconds to think about the content in today’s presentation. What was the single most important thing you believe you can take back to work tomorrow and who will be the first person you tell it to?
“Thank you again for having me! Before I go, I have one last activity. I need you to open up your laptops and open up a draft of a new email. In the message, I want you to pretend that you are writing an email to a good friend of yours who will be going through the same presentation tomorrow. Your friend wanted to know what the meeting was about and what you learned. Please write the email out and then we can share them.”
If you compare the first set versus the second set, I can guarantee you a massive difference in the conversation that you will get with the later.
In the first set, breaking into pairs is great because you are now forcing more conversation and elevating the pressure by letting them know they will need to share for their peer. This will ensure better answers and a different experience that they are not used to.
In the second example, you are asking people to close their eyes, which is unusual so creates an experience in and of itself, but the 30 seconds is designed to allow them time to put a thought together. The purpose of whom they would tell is to create good dialogue. Now when it is time to share you can basically point to people and ask them who they would talk to tomorrow and you are bound to get an answer and then all you have to do is follow up with what will your message be.
Finally, in the 3rd one, this is a great example of getting your team into their comfort zone of emails where people are not scared to write out whatever they are feeling. When it’s over you can do two effective techniques, first have people read what they wrote. This is easy for them because they do not have to stress about what they are saying, but they can just share. Secondly, at the end you can have them put your email address on the email and then send all that glorious feedback your way!
I hope that those are real world practical examples that you can help you to start thinking in better ways to debrief. That being said let’s say you forgot to prep and you wind up at the end of your meeting in a debrief question that is getting those dreaded silent crickets, what can you do??? The answer is simple, you wait for the 7 second savior!
The 7 second savior is a belief that if you do a dramatic pause, and hold your silence while waiting for a response for a full 7 seconds a few different outcomes always come about. We ALL hate awkward pauses…all of us! When you are standing there waiting for someone to tell you what the key take-aways were from the day and no one is talking, we are so quick to jump in and break the silence, DON’T DO IT! Wait a full 7 seconds, which feels like an eternity for you and the audience, and one of these will happen:
As you are scanning the crowd, look for a familiar face, someone you know or have connected with during the presentation and stair right at them. This will force them to feel for you and want break the silence with a response becoming your 7-second savior.
There are always one or two people who are wanting to share and thinking about how to construct their comment. Unfortunately, these people often miss their opportunity to share because they spend too much time thinking about what they will say and then someone else jumps in. Waiting a full seven seconds gives them a chance to formulate the thought and chime in!
A full 7 seconds goes by and it gets so awkward that everyone will just start laughing! This will break the ice so you can laugh and hit them with a self-deprecating joke like, “Well I guess there were no take-aways, I’ll go cry in my office now!” Then all you have to do is laugh and say, “Alright someone hit me with some take-aways!” and with the mood lifted people will chime in, if anything just to avoid that silence!
The best bet for a successful debrief is preparation! Spend a few minutes thinking about it before you present, write a few activities/thought exercises and you’ll be dialed! And if all else fails, look for a 7-Second Savior!