I always believe that public speaking is a learnable skill. As my mentor suggests, it is not sufficient for someone to learn this skill solely by reading books and/or attending courses. He must continue practising the skill. In my case, even though I have been a trainer for more than 10 years, I am still doing my own reflection after each training session in order to identify the possible areas for improvement.

In this article, I would like to discuss a situation that is common in almost every training session.

Let's consider this. John (a hypothetical person) is the trainer in a 1-day personal development workshop with 50 participants. It is now almost the end of the morning session and everyone is looking forward to lunch. John is caught by surprise when one of his participants, Mary (another hypothetical person), raises her hand and asks John a question that seems to be difficult to answer. As John does not anticipate this, he does not know how to react. There is a moment of silence in the training room.

If you were John, what would you do? I know some of you might try to answer the question anyway even if you do not know the answer. In my opinion, this is a risky move. If you do not handle this situation properly, your credibility as a trainer would be at risk.

Based on what I have learnt from my mentor and my own experience, I would like to offer three useful tips to help you to overcome this situation safely.

Tip No. 1: Repeat the question

After Mary has asked the question, I will first acknowledge and thank Mary for asking the question. I will then repeat her question. There are two reasons why I would do this. Firstly, this is to ensure that I understand her question. Secondly, it allows me to buy some time in order to decide whether I would handle this question myself. This is much better than not saying anything.

Tip No. 2: Redirect the question to the floor

Even if I am of the view that Mary's question is challenging, it does not mean that I must be the one handling the question. One technique I have been using is to redirect the question to the other participants. What exactly do I mean by that?

After Mary has asked the question, I will first acknowledge and thank Mary for asking the question. I will then check with the others to confirm that all of them understand Mary's question. If everyone in the room is clear, I will ask "who has the answer to Mary's question?" Suddenly, I switch my role from a trainer to a facilitator. The effect of this is that I am actually engaging the entire group and allowing exchange of views among the participants. It has been my experience that more often than not, someone from the group will be able to tackle such challenging question. Suppose Mary is satisfied with the answer from another participant. I will close the loop by asking the rest to give them a hand. As you will see, I do not even need to handle Mary's question myself.

Tip No.3: Say "I Don't Know" But...

How many of you would agree that a great trainer is someone who leads and inspires his participants? And how many of you would agree that a great trainer is also someone who is sincere and truly cares for his participants in their learning? Here is the truth. A great trainer does not know everything as he is just a human being. How many of you know what I am talking about?

If no one in the room is able to answer Mary's question, what I will do is to let Mary know that I do not have the immediate answer. Nevertheless, I undertake to find out the answer for Mary and I will commit to do this in front of the entire group. Why would I want to do this? It is about my commitment to my participants in that I would do whatever it takes to help them. In addition, this is much better than the situation where I have to make up my own answer. Remember, if a trainer is not honest to his participants, they will feel it and this is fatal to a trainer's credibility.

I hope you will find my sharing useful and apply these tips in your next training. If you have other good tips or experience to share as to how you would have handled this situation differently, please share with me and other readers because this is how we can all learn from each other's experience.

Author's Bio: 

After working in the corporate world for 16 years as an international tax lawyer, Jack Wong is now an entrepreneur working from home, allowing him to spend more time with his family. He specialises in coaching his clients to identify their passion in life, and how to make money from home.

For more details, check out Jack's Websites at http://www.empoweredrangers.com and http://www.familycentredentrepreneur.com