Tip #79: Handling a question about a topic you are not ready to cover

The Challenge: Someone asks a question that you do not want to cover until you have provided some preliminary basic information.

Possible Approaches: Thank the person for asking the question and indicate it will be covered at a specific time later in the day; offer to answer the question at break; and, if the person absolutely cannot wait and continues to ask the question in different ways, provide a basic response that will not confuse the rest of the group.

It may minimize premature questions if you provide an overview of the agenda and then offer a “parking lot” (a labeled flip chart on which participants can place sticky notes with their questions). The “parking lot” flip chart can provide a designated space for questions related to each specific topic area. As long as you review the” parking lot” frequently and address the questions when they pertain, the participants will not mind waiting for their answers.

Another option is to simply provide sticky notes so that participants can jot down their questions as they arise. This may alleviate their need to ask them quickly, before they forget them..

If the participants know you will ask for questions after you present each new topic or concept, they may be more comfortable holding their questions until that time.

Sometimes a participant will ask a question simply to demonstrate that s/he is knowledgeable about the topic. In that event, acknowledge the participant’s expertise and ask that s/he assist you by providing definitions or examples when you get to that point in the lesson.

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