Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Serving your audience by answering their questions

An after-dinner speech provides a unique opportunity for answering questions after a presentation. There is not another speaker waiting for you to finish so he or she can start. You can provide a more detailed answer that shows how it fits into a broader subject.

A decade ago I heard George Vander Voort speak about Metallography of Welds at a dinner meeting of the Oregon Chapter of ASM International in Portland. George delivered a PowerPoint presentation containing lots of images of cross-sectioned, polished, and etched weld joints in a wide variety of materials. Then he took several questions about that specific presentation. (More recently George discussed that topic in a 2011 magazine article).

Next he asked the audience if there were any questions about metallography in general. George said I’m here to serve you, so ask away. His answers to several questions each  included showing a series of images from other presentations stored on his laptop. It was a virtuoso performance. George has a very rare breadth and depth of knowledge. (I have a copy of his 750-page book, Metallography: Principles and Practice). But, you don’t need  that depth to adopt his attitude of servant leadership.

Thinking back, what George’s performance reminded me of was watching someone set up an extension table for a family Thanksgiving dinner. Small pieces are fitted together to form a larger, more inclusive whole.      

The image of puzzle pieces came from OpenClipart, and the extension table from Scientific American.

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