Our Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) sessions were birthed with the intent of giving a spotlight, allowing other chapter members as the audience a different insight of the hot-seat member / speaker.
It gives the speaker the practice of airtime, being on the stage, and the tension of being in the ‘public eye’ (albeit within the chapter). You realise that the only way to overcome stage fright is to be on stage until it no longer gets frightening. So the only way to being forefront as a leader, is simply to be in the forefront.
Interestingly, as the host, I too had the opportunity to learn about hosting.
1. Preempt the audience
Even when it’s Ask-Me-Anything, it’s good to set some context and some operating parameters. Since it’s a business platform, I had informed members that we’d stick to business areas; challenges, how they overcame, new directions, other networks, along this line.
2. Preempt the speaker
In a business network, we will get warmer with each other naturally. Occasionally, some friendly questions do hit too close to home, being oddly personal or offbeat. I prepare the speaker that I will filter these as best I can.
3. Ask open questions
Always ask questions that allow the speaker to share more. The Why, How and What are good ones to field. Parroting the last thing the speaker says, also helps the elaboration process.
4. Narrow the focus
At times, the speaker would meander off and digress or drift into storytelling mode. I have learned to spot this, and to bring the focus back. The art of interrupting is also an area to develop.
5. Hold Court
This is about watching the audience as well as the speaker. As the host, I’d need to moderate the pace, picking it up when required, or changing the levity when it shifts too serious or too light.
6. Change topic
Part of holding court, is to also know when a topic is done, and to being the conversations to another area. This is why pre-empting is also effective, as no one gets surprised when I move to other topics.
7. Create connections with the audience
The goal of AMA is to foster and strengthen the connection between the speaker and the audience. When I feel that the audience gains new insights of the speaker, and finds ways to help him/her in the business, it’s the achievement I seek.
8. Conclude and create good tension
The session doesn’t go on forever. I aim to end it on a high note, create a tension for the audience to want to know more. The idea is that they would arrange their own time together with the hot-seat member to perhaps work out a collaboration.
Thank you for the opportunity to learn as a host.