Oct 13, 2009

Teacher & Trainer Special: Interview with Homi Mulla [Part 1 of 2]

Homi Mulla is an OD & HR expert in India. He is known by his flagship Relationship Management Program which he runs for blue chip organizations all the year round. He has worked in the industry for thirteen years and has been training for more than two decades. A musician, a stage actor and a captivating speaker Homi has a lot to teach presenters like you and me. This post will be of special interest to teacher and trainers.

Q1. You have been conducting workshops for over two decades now. Your workshops last 6 days and go on from 9 to 5. How do you get participants to pay attention?

There are two traits of a good speaker; conviction and passion. If you are passionate about what you are doing and you speak with conviction, people will listen to you. When you meet a person with passion you get impressed and begin paying attention. That is the secret of any good speaker.

Q2. Your workshops have 12-24 participants. One workshop lasts for 6 days. How do you make sure the audience continues to pay attention during the entire workshop? How do you hold attention for so long?

I speak every day for not more than 2 to 3 hours. Even while I am speaking I pause after every couple of minutes and involve the participants. It is not a monologue. No one can keep listening to a monologue for hours. My talk is like a discussion which builds slowly and I am just one contributor to that.

I also use voice modulation. It works for me. When I need to emphasize, I raise my voice. Other times, I whisper something mildly. This keeps the audience hooked on. It heightens their interest in what I am saying.

Q3. Every presenter knows how tough it is to involve the audience. How do you manage to get such high involvement levels from participants?

Provoke. Some people are more talkative than others. For participants who are not responsive and do not talk much I mirror them. I provoke them to open up. I do ensure I don’t hurt their sentiments.

Mirroring. This is a good technique which every presenter should use to encourage people to talk more. When someone is not talking, I tell him, “How would you feel if you were in my position. You were giving this talk and I was sitting there like a statue. Motionless. Not speaking a word. Would you like that?” This trick works with most people and they start interacting more. You need to make people realize the effects of their actions. Then only will they change their behaviour.

Q4. Not everything you teach is elementary stuff. You do deal with abstract theory and higher level concepts. How do you make such content understandable to your audience?

I bring the content down to their level. I make them live through the ‘theory’. If a participant comes late to my class I do not say, “Why did you come late?” On the contrary I say, “How often do you go late to office? How often do you go late for your meetings?” I teach human behaviour from what they do in my workshop and relate it to what they do or don’t do in life outside the workshop.

I explain every single concept with the help of a real life example. Most of the time, I use examples from instances that have happened on the same day rather than five years back. The closer the date of the event, the more impact it leaves on the minds of the participants. If you are a finance teacher, using examples from today’s newspaper is better than teaching what happened when your students were not even born.

In order to do this, you need to first know the background of your audience and work backwards from that. Create customized content.

Q5. How do you check whether the participants understand what you are teaching?
In my training workshops, the scores from written tests after every session indicate whether people really understand or things are going over their head. Even during the sessions, I get a sense of things because my sessions are not a monologue. I speak only 50% of the time. The rest 50% of the time I listen. That tells me whether the audience is with me or not.

Q6. You have been training for over 20 years now. Giving talks day in and day out. Why don’t you use MS PowerPoint or some other software?

PowerPoint is just another tool to get ideas across. When I started there was no PowerPoint. I use chart paper on which I write down only important things. Then I stick it on to the walls while the workshop is running. A chart works better because it is always available for ready reference.

Find the remaining part of the interview in the next post.

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