Thursday, June 14, 2007

I had fun at lunch today

I presided over and ran the Table Topics portion of my company's Toastmasters club. Neither of our speakers could make it to the meeting, so I did up Table Topics a little differently. Normally, during the Table Topics portion of the meeting, the Table Topics master gives a topic to each person, who then gives a 45 second to 1 minute 15 second speech over that topic.

The company has been on a big push lately with Customer Service, and I thought a complement to that initiative would be handling sticky situations. I gave each of the attendees a sheet of paper listing seven sticky situations that I personally experienced in recent memory. Each member was asked to either pick a scenario off the list or describe one from their own experience. Then, the speaker would give a short talk on how he/she would have handled the situation. Once everyone in attendance gave a short talk, I switched gears and we had a good 15 minute discussion. We talked about how to tell a customer 'no' and what to do when your supervisor said something you knew was incorrect in a high-level meeting.

Just in case you were curious, the sticky situations were:

1. You have been asked to evaluate a speech given by a novice speaker. The speaker struggled through the speech. You spoke to the speaker before the meeting and found out that the speaker was worried about nerves but was very excited about the topic of the speech.

2. A customer has asked you for information, and you are unable to provide it for him/her.

3. Your supervisor has given a presentation and has asked for your feedback. Overall, you thought the presentation was great, but there were a couple areas that needed improvement.

4. An angry customer has called you and insists that you can help him with his problem. However, he has somehow reached the entirely wrong department, and you are unsure who can help him.

5. You have been working as a team member on a major project. Close to the deadline, you realize that you gave other members of the team wrong information. This means there will be additional work for the team, but the project deadline remains unchanged.

6. You are attending a meeting with your supervisor and other more senior staff. During the course of the meeting, your supervisor makes a statement that you know is incorrect.

7. A customer has asked for special consideration, and you find that the customer is not eligible for that consideration.

All in all, I was impressed with the maturity and professionalism of our little group. I hope the others came away from the meeting with an additional tool or two to pull out when the next sticky situation arises. I know I did.

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