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6 Ways to Address Someone’s Challenge to your Presentation

Have you ever been in front of a group, cruising along in your presentation, when suddenly and seemingly from out of nowhere, your presentation is de-railed by an emotionally charged objection?

Several years ago I was proposing the idea of moving from all in-person training delivery to a blended approach that would include some in-person delivery and some elearning modules. One of the original designers of our in-person training program raised a series of sentimental and emotional objections to this idea. For a moment, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. She was offering a very personal argument against the idea that we could accomplish what we needed to accomplish if we were to lose face-to-face time with our learners.

As I allowed her to finish her point, I started to search my own memory banks for a facilitation tool that could help me out of this jam. I reached deep down into my bag of tricks and pulled out Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. It helped me in this instance and it’s helped me many times since – in training sessions and in team meetings. In short, the Six Thinking Hats approach honors and validates where someone is coming from when they’re articulating their argument, and it asks them to look at the issue through several additional lenses.

In the example I offered above, the instructional designer was sharing an emotional argument. Emotion, in de Bono’s model, is the “Red Hat“. Which is absolutely fine, as long as it’s not the only way we look at things. I asked the group to keep the red hat thinking in mind while also exploring five additional ways to look at the issue:

The White Hat: What data might support the idea that a blended approach could work?

The Yellow Hat: What benefits could come from a blended approach to training?

The Black Hat: What rational arguments could be made to ensure we’re cautious in the acceptance of adopting a blended learning approach?

The Green Hat: How creative can we get when it comes to blended learning? What might be possible beyond this specific training curriculum? How crazy could we dream?

The Blue Hat: On a systemic level, what kinds of things do we need to consider that could help or hinder a blended approach in the context of the entire organization?

The next time someone challenges your content or shreds one of your ideas apart, resist the temptation to become defensive. Invite them (and anyone else who is present) to put their thoughts on hold for a moment while they try on some of the other hats as well.

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