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Richard Farmer


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Same delegate answers all the questions


Recently delivered a workshop where one delegate was more experienced than the rest and keenly tried to answer each question I put to the group.

Would be very interested to know what techniques there are for getting the rest of the delegates to answer, without the 'knowledgeable' delegate getting upset or even being aware this is happening.

Many thanks

5 Responses

  1. Choose specific delegates?


    If the group isn't too large, I always make a point of trying to remember delegates names as I find this helps with engagement.  If you do this too (or you use name badges) then you could ask a specific delegate for their input.

    Alternatively you could break the delegates into smaller groups/pairs allow them to discuss the question for a few minutes, and then look for feedback from groups which don't include the knowledgeable delegate.

    Finally, and this might the be best approach of all, you could just say this to the knowledgeable delegate.  I've done this several times and it has never caused an issue.  I would wait for a break, take them to one side and say something like "You clearly know your subject and your experience will be really useful as the day progresses as you will be able to share examples and so on of different situations.  Can I ask you to give other delegates an opportunity to respond to questions as this will help them develop their own knowledge and help me assess whether or not they are really grasping the subject".  (or along those lines)

    Of course, that only works if the delegate truly is knowledgeable!  ūüėČ

    Hope that helps,




  2. I’ve had this happen too.¬†

    I've had this happen too.  You could pose your question and then say "how about some thoughts from this side of the room/back of the room/front of the room (indicating an area away from the keen delegate).

    I have also given everyone a few post it notes and asked them to jot their thoughts down on them.  They can then come up to the flipchart and group their thoughts together and you (or one of them) can summarise the group's thoughts.

    You can also subtly give less eye contact to the keen delegate when posing your question.

    And the suggestions from Fiona are great – I've found them very successful.


  3. Other thoughts

    In addition to the suggestions that have already been made from Jenny and Fiona, I  have tried to get the experienced person to get involved with sharing their experiences or by getting them to answer some of the questions that the group would ask of me.

    I would do this by saying: "what were your experiences of this situation" or "how would you deal with this" "having done this before XX must have some good reflections". Normally the answers were good and I would also add in a extra thought for the group and experienced person to consider.

    As a trainer we should be considering their position and why they are on the training in the first place. Have they been sent on it, are their skills really that good, do they have the knowledge or is the course something they have to attend to achieve a qualification?

    I have also found having that quick chat with them gets me to understand where they are coming from and helps me to decide how I can help them to get the best out of the course. Usually getting them involved and using their knowledge and experiences has worked for me.

  4. Extra thought

    In addition to what has already been suggested, you may want to use body language by positioning your body accordingly at times when asking questions e.g. face the rest of the audience with the person looking at your side/shoulder; move to a position in the room where you are behind them for a short period (easier to do in a U-shaped setting). They may get the hint from this behaviour however I am with others in that there is no substitute for assertively communicating: "Thanks George for your contribution. Now I would like to hear from others. Fiona, what do you think?"

    Bryan – course delivery and training material design

  5. pose pause pounce

    the other excellent suggestions say pretty much all there is to say, except to mention the pose pause pounce

    Pose a question generically…..

    Pause, whilst looking around the room making eye contact with as many people as possible……

    Pounce on a particular delegate whose contribution you want

    Taught to me in the Army, so long ago that Friar Tuck was the Regimental Padre! 

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Richard Farmer

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