Getting The BEST Answer In the Room

Have you ever seen that improv game, Questions Only, where the actors can only ask questions, and the first one who answers (with a period at the end) is out?

In my public speaking training, I would bring in an improv instructor to take my students through the same exercise. Overall, each participant made it through no more than two rounds of responding to their partner’s questions before having to drop out.

Why did I have this exercise in a public speaking training? Because I had taught this point earlier in the day and I wanted to embed it in their brains:

The brain cannot abide an unanswered question. In other words, when listening to a presenter on stage, it cannot drift off to sleep, or comfortably scroll through a Facebook feed–if a question has been asked.

So, I had taught them, make sure your talks are peppered with questions!

But there was another point I wanted to drill into them—any idea what it is?

No matter how good you think you are at asking questions (if you’re a coach, you have been taught the skill, however…), you are not good enough. Far more than you will ever realize, you put “periods” at the ends of sentences that deserve question marks.

If you teach anyone, ever, at any time—or want to elicit wisdom or bring the best answers into the room–from your children, your best friend, your clients needless to say, your prospects, anyone….(Do you know what I’m going to say?)

failing to ask questions is to fail to achieve those outcomes.

Of course, Socrates understood this. The Greek philosopher invented the teaching practice of “pedagogy,” known as the Socratic Method, a dialogue between teacher and learner, where the teacher asks continually probing questions in a concerted effort to explore the underlying beliefs that shape the learner’s views and opinions.

The reason that questioning is so vital to getting the best answer in the room is that too often the answers being brought into the room are superficial. The Socratic Method naturally promotes critical thinking—the lynchpin of powerful solutions.

Political Science professor, Rob Reich, a recipient of the Walter J. Gores Award for Teaching Excellence in 2001, describes four essential components of the Socratic method this way:

  • Socratic inquiry is not “teaching,” as we know it. The students are not passive recipients of knowledge.
  • The Socratic Method involves a shared dialogue between teacher and students. The teacher leads by posing thought-provoking questions. Students actively engage by asking questions of their own. The discussion goes back and forth.
  • The aim of the questioning is to probe the underlying beliefs upon which each participant’s statements, arguments and assumptions are built (so as to ensure the soundest reasoning.)
  • The Socratic leader does not have all the answers and is not merely “testing” the learner.

The focus is not on the participants’ statements but on the value system that underpins their beliefs, actions, and decisions. For this reason, any successful challenge to this system comes with high stakes—one might have to examine and change one’s life, but, Socrates is famous for saying, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

So, how is this relevant to you?

Well, how about using systematic, probing questioning whenever an answer is needed? And only when the best answer is needed?

If you’re a consultant—how about asking yourself, “Am I “telling” too much when “asking” should be the style of communication?”

If you’re a coach, trained in questioning–ask yourself, “Do I ever ask my clients ‘leading’ questions that yield an answer I think they should have?”

As a business leader, are you asking what your team knows–or asserting what you know?

If you are a parent, and your child comes to you, as mine did a few weeks ago with, “What should I do??” – can you bite down hard on your tongue, sit on your hands and reply with, “What are you considering doing?” Then, “How well do think that will work?” Then, “How will you feel if you do that rather than the other option?”

No answers but his/hers!

I challenge you to play the improv game this week: imagine each question is the “bird” in badminton that must be kept volleying in the air. One “statement” from you (other than “good job” at the end) abruptly ends the game of “Best Answer In the Room.”

(Warning: Teenagers detest this!!! But don’t let that deter you!)

This is such an ingrained part of my communication style, I go fairly mad when others can’t do it with me. The other day, I came up with an inventive solution. I was in a particularly difficult mental logjam and, knowing that my guy cannot for the life of him think in questions and therefore cannot ask them (despite 13 years of my trying to teach him)…

…I wrote out a series of 16 questions for him to ask me. I knew the best answer in the room could only be elicited through a series of stacking questions, and if he wasn’t equipped to conjure them, I was. He delivered them and it worked like a charm! My thinking was clarified and my decision became obvious.

According to my oldest brother, I was an interviewer at a very young age; always profoundly curiosity about others. But then, somewhere along the way, the courtroom attorney in me woke up, and the probing questioner arrived on the scene—the part of me that spots a superficial answer and knows a better one can be found.

Everyone close to me has encountered the attorney-at-law in me—or, perhaps a kinder, gentler image to evoke would be Columbo—and it is often met with resistance. I find that most people get triggered when asked to stretch their assumptions. But like Socrates, I am absolutely, positively committed to the best answer, no matter how frustrating it is for those who hit walls in attaining it.

Alanis Morisette told Oprah recently, “I like to get to the bottom where there is no lie left.” Yes. Yes. I think she channels Socrates, too.

My clients experience this level of probing inquiry from me when developing their thought leader brand and message. I puncture that surface and, at times, they wail in frustration at the wall of blankness they encounter at some points in the process. But we just keep at it, and all of them rejoice in the epiphanies that arise–that wouldn’t have if not for the really hard questions.

Inquiry of this depth may trigger your “I’m dumb” story (this is what I encounter most), but in keeping with it, it will activate the “I am so damn wise!” story. Isn’t that worth it?

And isn’t it worth giving that experience to those around you—particularly those who pay you??

So, here are a few questions:

  • What is your number one take-away today?
  • What is the first question you are going to ask once you’re done reading this—and to whom?
  • And when are you going to employ the improv game: “nothing but questions” for an entire conversation?

Can you imagine what would be possible for your work if you were asked nothing but one deepening question after another?

Do you really think that you can imagine it? Or do you just need to experience it?

Coming next week: An exciting new program from me…for thought leaders and aspiring thought leaders…if you are determined to get the very best answer in the room for your business and your legacy.

Stay tuned!!

Remember: the brain cannot abide an unanswered question. What’s your next one?

The First-Ever Teleclass Game Show Was a Hit!

I gave a teleclass this week and last where my listeners
were contestants! The entire group had to fulfill a single
task in just 3 minutes, with some basic raw materials.

I told them what needed to be accomplished but that
“how” they accomplished it would be all up to them.  I
let them know that to “beat the clock” would require
creativity, ingenuity, fearlessness, passion and dedica-
tion. In a nutshell, it would require leadership and
cooperation—the two key words of the “new paradigm”
we, as a species, are moving into.

I then told them that this task was going to teach on
many levels. It would teach them about how to teach
(the reason they were on the call in the first place); it
would teach them about leadership—theirs and others;
it would teach about their own fears, inhibitions, doubts
and strengths. And it would teach them about the ability
to enroll others in a vision.

So, how did they do on this task? Class One, from Thurs.
Feb 24, did not beat the clock, set at 3 minutes. They
came in at 4:23. Yesterday’s class came in at 4:52. First,
I congratulate ALL of them for being there in the first
place. I didn’t record this and they knew they had to be
there live, and they were. And I congratulate them for
playing the game at all, with a bunch of strangers!!! So,
woo-hoo to them!!

But what was the hold-up with the time? The task required
“leaders” to step forward at 3 different points. Their roles
were very simple. Nothing confusing (I’d made sure to
give them a chance to ask any necessary questions), but
they had to step forward. And do something that could
have been viewed as silly by the group.

Group One leaders came forward rather readily; their
breakdown had mostly to do with time-management.
Group Two, however, was reticent to step into leader-
ship roles. To encourage them, I reminded them, “How
you do anything is how you do everything!” Because,
as I had told them, this would teach on many levels,
not the least being seeing how they react to the threat
of looking foolish, or to the threat of being imperfect (!)
–because how they react here is how they react every-

And I reminded them of the truth: that they are being
called into leadership, as this world we live in rapidly
changes. I reminded them that this is their calling. Yet
still, Group Two (and to some extent, Group One, too)
hung back.

Now, I was teaching them Page 13 from my Secrets of
Impact & Influence
public speaking training. I call it
the  “10-Don’t-Bother-Speaking-or-Teaching-Without-
These” Factors of Deep and Rapid Learning (and this
Beat-the-Clock game was implementing all 10, though
they didn’t realize that until later.) But for me, what
was taught most profoundly was the hesitancy around
leadership. Group Two was in competition–and I could
feel that there were several on the call quite into beating
Group One’s time–and yet that wasn’t enough. Now,
of course, eventually, all 3 leaders DID materialize. 
And they did an amazing job of carrying the entire rest
of the group forward. So, the leaders stepped up! But
it took something for them to do it. And we didn’t have
enough time on the call to review what it is they said
to themselves to get them to speak up, but I’m going to
ask them to come on over here and tell us their story.
What got them to finally move into leadership?

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Where your
leadership was being called forth? How did you react?
Did you wait to see if someone else would step forward
first? Did you hear chatter in your head that had some-
thing to do with fear of making a mistake or looking
foolish? Or did you come barreling to the front of the
proverbial (or not) room?

Leadership is calling to all service entrepreneurs at this
time. Inspired leadership, in particular. Are you ready?

I’d love to hear some of your experiences! And leaders
from the calls–let us know what finally got you to move
onto center stage!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the very
first teleclass game show! It was a “hoot” and I learned
so much! Hugs!

Leaders of Change: The Future of Entrepreneurship

In my last post, I cracked the moral whip, taking a zero-tolerance
stance on “how-to experts” who earn a living sharing their expertise,
without ever learning the expertise of teaching. I made it clear
that I find doing so irresponsible and glaringly out of alignment with
their professed intention of wanting to help others. No one is being
helped by an expert who doesn’t know how to successfully transfer
knowledge. And I ruffled a few (not many, but a few) feathers,
clearly hitting a nerve.

So, let’s leave morality behind and get practical. Teaching power-
fully is the difference between a message sticking, and a message
evaporating into thin air. Teaching effectively is the difference between
your viewers, readers or listeners taking the action you want them
to, and slipping away into oblivion. Teaching well is the difference
between their buying on the spot, and procrastinating. Contributing,
and making excuses. Participating full-on, and sitting on the bench.
Telling others about you, and remaining silent. If you got triggered
by my wrist-slapping the other day, you can certainly agree with the
common sense fact that teaching well is good for your reputation,
your business and your intention to stimulate action.

But I believe there is a critical purpose to teaching effectively that is
greater than the moral value and the benefits to your business—and
it has to do with the historic times we find ourselves in, and what
they mean for the future of entrepreneurs.

Have you noticed the once-incomprehensible changes that are happening
on the planet right now? Upheavals of almost every kind abound, and
with them come growing fear and uncertainty. And whether you realize
it or not, your role as a business owner is changing, too. Where once,
you were in service to your individual markets—now, you’re in service to
the planet. Your role as entrepreneur is being upgraded to “leader of
I met an 85-year-old woman the other night who was terribly
excited about the GET ON YOUR FEET2011 movement I’ve launched,
and she added a new word to my lexicon: world-citizen. In these times,
we are being called to world-citizenship as businesses.

Which means we will be called forward to lead–on platforms we’ve
never stood on before.

And we must be worthy of that leadership. We must communicate
so potently and effectively, that our words of insight get through, and
move people to change with these changing times. It is essential that
we not waste a breath speaking, unless it impacts. As a leader of change,
everything we convey must count. And that is the most important
reason to teach with powerful effectiveness. Not just because it’s morally
responsible (which it is), or because it will make you more money (which
it will)—but because you are here to achieve something and become a
part of something bigger than you, and its success is imperative.

The “new world” we are so quickly inhabiting will require powerful new
leaders with new-paradigm qualifications
. Teaching with excellence
will be just one.

On Thursday, February 24 at 4pm EST, I am doing something I have
never done. (You’ve heard that one before, right?) I’m serious, though. For
years, I’ve taught a revolutionary public speaking training based on brain
research in memory and learning
. Secrets of Impact and Influence
has been an enduring and highly acclaimed signature program—that I only
give live. Outside that training, I have never so much as whispered to any-
one the secrets I teach there—and all of my attendees have been sworn to
the same code of honor.  But on Feb. 24, I am opening up the Secrets of
Impact & Influence
manual and teaching page 13: The 10 “Don’t-Bother
-Teaching-Without-These” Factors of Deep and Rapid Learning

And because I’ll be using all 10 factors, The Inspired Speakers teleclass is
going to be unlike ANY free call (or paid call!) you have EVER experienced.

If you’re an expert, you cannot miss this. If you’re an entrepreneur, this
is your future
: leaders of change must know this information. So go now,
read all about it and sign up!

Can Anyone Else Figure Out Your Message? And Do They Buy It?

48 hours ago, a group of very special people were taking part in the
2nd day of my public speaking training, Secrets of Impact & Influence.
I can’t tell you what they were doing–because that’s one of the secrets–
but they were under some pressure to put into practice everything I
had taught them the day before. I just love doling out pressure to my

Anyway, at a point later in the day, I was helping them look at the big
picture of where their presentation fits into their business–because
they were all visionary entrepreneurs with big messages that they want
to deliver. Here they were, learning how to be better than trained teachers
and absolutely better than 99% of presenters out in the word–but then

Since you have a message, too–and since the time has come for you
to come out of hiding and deliver it–I think it would benefit you, too,
to realize the necessary components of getting out there and successfully
spreading your word while also successfully building a business!

So, you have an idea of what your life-changing message is, and you have
years and years of experience, knowledge, wisdom and insight to share
that will change the world. What I have come to learn myself is that those
with big messages often get buried under the largeness of everything
they know–and have a very  hard time speaking about their messages clearly.

For instance, I can’t tell you how many people say to me, “Lizabeth, I have
so much content. How do I know what to put into a presentation?” They’re
buried…and that’s just pertaining to a single program. What about their
business at large
and trying to describe that in a succinct manner? It’s
just like their content: it’s too big, too unwieldy.

So, how do we speak when something is too big, very UNformed, and
consequently, very unclear? We ramble, go off-point, say things that
have no relevancy to our prospect–and we lose them.

The NUMBER ONE element missing from business clarity AND clarity
around what to put into a presentation is strategic thinking. I’m not
sure why, but most visionary entrepreneurs, with big messages and lots
to give to others, are putting out fires daily and NOT thinking out every
step in their business. They’re trying to make money today, right
now–and not planning how that quick-fix will fit into the long-term, or
even if it does fit in. Very often the class they create on a whim, or the
coaching offer they make just to make money for the month, has no
bearing on the big picture, and they are like hamsters on a wheel, having
to create something new to offer every month. It’s exhausting because
nothing they’re doing has roots. There is no strategy. 

Sounds familiar, huh? So, what can you do? You have to take a time-out;
incubate yourself for a critical period of time and take stock in where
you’re going and how you will make money. Not just for today, but for
always. What is the business model you should be developing that will
work for a good solid few years? That is determined by knowing how you
plan to disseminate your message, ultimately. Do you want to be a coach
only? Do you want to have a radio how with sponsors? Do you want to be
a keynote speaker? Or a trainer, like I am?  You must know who you want
to be at the “pinnacle of your success”–and then build your business model
from that knowledge…and yes, that often means revamping the business
you have had for years!

In this incubation period, you must also check to see just how market-
you really are. Do people want your message, really?? Or has that
been done to death? And if someone does want your message–who
wants it–and do you know why they want it so much? Do you know
what wakes them up in the middle of the night and what they fantasize
about? You must–IF you want to successfully deliver your message
to them.

Also, in your time of incubation, you need to know precisely how
you’re different from everyone else out there. How do you set your-
self apart  in dynamic ways that stand out? Here’s one idea, something
a little radical: stand out by standing on top of a proverbial mountain
top and shouting your “prescription for change in the world.” What is
your belief of what will change the world? (Not your business solution,
but a solution that transcends that; that is a universal truth.) And
here’s the radical part: say that in your marketing. Shout your beliefs
in your marketing. This will set you apart from all others without

Next, in your incubation period, you must come to understand what
your business thesis is. You know what a thesis statement is, right?
Well, you need one–a clear, concise one–for your business. What is
your contention, as the expert of your service? You have one, but I
guarantee you are not building your entire business around a strong,
well-articulated business thesis. Very few businesses do
this–and it is even rarer for the “inspired leader”-type to think this way.

So now, you have a business vision…you know you’re marketable
and why…and to whom, specifically…and what will have you stand
out from everyone else who does what you do…and you have that
“from-the-mountaintop” message…and the thesis statement that
your whole business stands on. Whew! You’ve put yourself into a
strategic pressure cooker!

NOW–and only now– you know HOW you should deliver
your message!
With all of that work, you know what your programs
and presentations should be. No more confusion about having too
much content. Suddenly, your business isn’t unwieldy, and you can
speak about it with crystal clarity and conciseness so people are
interested in hearing your message.

Personally, I believe that all of that strategy needs to be refined so
crisply and tightly that you could express any element of your
business in a single sentence, if asked. So, if someone says, “What
do you do?” You can answer–in a single, potent sentence. If someone
says, “I know someone who does that.” You can swoop in with a
killer sentence that shows them that, no, NO ONE ELSE does what
you do. Here’s how you’re different. And if someone wants to know
the tangible results they’ll get from working with you–you can
rattle them off, like bullet points, in a single sentence.

What you can describe in a single sentence, you fully understand.
What you canNOT, you do not.

I believe there are 12 questions that are always lurking in the minds
of your prospects. If you can craft compelling and pithy answers
to each of them–and speak those–you have the ability to convert.
Period. If you cannot, your conversion rates will be very poor. You
need to have your business identity so refined that you could balance
your business on the head of a pin. It is that clear. Is yours?

My mission is to ensure that visionary entrepreneurs succeed! That
they’re messages are truly received AND that they make money and
have a solid business model that works. I am devoting myself to those
who are changing the world with their messages because failure
is not an option!
They are needed too badly.

To that end, I offer a high-octane online program called “12 Sentences
and it starts next week. It is THE “incubation course” of all time and if
you are ready to birth a business that is powerfully set up to truly deliver
the messages and content you have–I invite you to attend one of the
3 free calls I’m giving this week, where you can find out what the course

Just click right here to sign up for the calls Tuesday, Wed and Thursday
this week.

The Precious First Few Minutes of a Presentation

Audiences will not listen to you just because you’re standing in front
of a room. Did you listen to your English teachers or Social Studies
teachers just because they were there? Of course not. The ones you
listened to were the ones who earned your listening. Adults may
be more politically correct than kids and give you the impression that
they’re listening—but unless you have earned it, they’re tuned out.

How do you “earn their listening”? First, let’s talk about how you
don’t. Just in any conversation, whether with one or one thousand
people, you lose their listening when you start out talking about
. They don’t care about you. Not yet. You have to earn
that. Begin by entering their world and showing them that you under-
stand them. That you respect them. When people are acknowledged,
they’re all ears.

You lose their listening if you don’t persuade them that they will
benefit from something you have to say. My daughter comes home
every day telling me “school was boring.” I don’t doubt it. Wasn’t it
boring when you went, too?  Her teachers are not enrolling  the kids
in the benefits of learning about fungi or Ancient Rome. You must
convince them that they’ll gain from listening to you–right from the
outset. If you fail at this, you’ve lost them for the rest of the ride.

You lose their listening if you’re not speaking their language. Literally.
Know the industry lingo. But at the same time, do not use your indus-
ry lingo with an audience who’s not in your industry!!! This kind of lack-
of-awareness is epidemic. Do you use words others don’t know to impress
them–or just because you’re not thinking?

You’ll lose their listening really fast if the language isn’t right, either.
 A particular pet peeve of mine is incorrect grammar. I can’t tell you how
many “professional speakers” don’t speak correct English. They lose my
listening the instant they mix up “me” with “I.” As in, “The team went to
the meeting with Roger and myself,” or “He was so much better than me
at selling.” Please read a grammar book if you’re unsure. 

You’ll lose their listening if you don’t tell them why you are up there.
 What are the education and credentials that make you worthy of their
listening? The best method is to tell us a story that explains what brought
you to this spot in front of the room. Perhaps it’s a before and after story;
or a story of an “aha” moment that changed everything. I don’t know any-
one who won’t listen to a good story. Do you really want to wow them?
Then tell them why you’re doing this over any other career/job in
the world. What about this compels you? Gets you up in the morning?
What’s in it for you? Why are you so passionate? When you answer this
for them, not only are they listening, but they’re beginning to see the
value of being in their seats.

And, of course, you lose their listening if you don’t know that.  If you
have no passion for your subject. It will show itself in your monotone
voice, flat facial expressions, slow movements, “ums” and slide-reading.
If the subject you’re speaking about isn’t worth your energy…it certainly
isn’t worth theirs!

I teach my clients and audiences how to “earn their listening”  from the
very first moment they step on stage, and, of course, how to keep
it throughout. There are many more elements to this process that are
subtle and absolutely essential. If you don’t get the results you want
from speaking in public; if you don’t get the reactions and the word of
mouth and the sales, check in to see how you “lost their listening.” Did
you start out talking about yourself? Fail to enroll them in the benefits of
listening to you? Did you speak “below” or “above” their heads? Give data
instead of a story?

Don’t worry. There’s always a next time! 

Today is the LAST DAY you can bring-a-colleague-free to my
2-day public speaking training based on the latest brain research. 
You will learn 2 sequences at this event–and the first is the 7-Point
Introduction: How to earn their listening right from the start. There
are a lot of videos you can watch on this page to see if this is the
seminar you need to attend next month. I hope to see you there!

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