Bringing "PR Secrets" to a a group at the Palos Heights Public Library. (Photo by Jeannine Kacmar)
Sharing Facebook counsel during “PR Secrets” with a group composed primarily of small business owners and not-for-profit volunteers. (Photo Courtesy of Palos Heights Public Library)

Notice this post’s headline? Something I learned long ago: the person in control of the conversation is the one asking questions.

As a journalist for many years, going back to my days before I was legally able to drive a motor vehicle, asking questions is something that comes naturally to me. It may not be second nature to everyone, particularly those who are sharing from a position of expertise.

However, just because you know a ton about a given topic, plunging ahead without “checking in” on your audience can result in missed opportunities. That’s why I always like to find out what brings people to workshops or other talks that I deliver.

Just this week, during a session of “PR Secrets From a Media Insider” at Palos Heights Public Library, that vigilance was rewarded. To my astonishment, by going around the conference room and asking attendees for their foremost objective for the evening, I discovered that 14 out of the 15 present were not seeking guidance on how to connect directly with the media.

That element is usually central to my workshop, but I also have a bevy of other topics that I can discuss. On this night, for example, interest was particularly high on social media strategy. By taking a cue from the feedback that I solicited from those men and women, that is precisely where I devoted more of our time.

So, to all presenters out there: don’t assume you know why people are in front of you. Depending on the size of your audience, you may not be able to do a person-by-person survey, but there are ways to get a gist of what would be most helpful to those you’re sharing with.

Take control of the conversation, ask this key question–and see how you can max out on giving relevant, practical support.

Related Posts:
Let’s Face It: A Key Part of an Interview’s `Art’
PR Tips: How to Build Rapport With Reporters

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