It All Starts With a Question, a Powerful One! – Toronto Agile Conference 2019

It was a great experience and an honor to present for the audience of Toronto Agile Conference 2019. My talk was on powerful questions, a continuation of what I presented at Big Apple Scrum Day. I changed it to address the requirements of the conference, the layout of the room and based on the feedback received from BASD.

I really enjoyed the talk myself. It was great to see the full house, and some even were standing in a huge room of 205 ABC at Beanfield Centre (200+). There were 100+ feedback form collected. That for itself is a great feedback.

Update Jan 2020: Just got the feedback on my “Powerful Question”, 90 people to start, 100 to end with, an average of 8.5/10 point. Thanks Toronto Agile Community for having me. It is still an epic day for me to remember, thanks for those who showed up, provided feedback, organizers and volunteers!

It was amazing also to meet David Marquet in person. We got to talk at the speaker dinner the night before the event. It happened that he is touching on the powerful question topic in his keynote. And it was so amazing that he referred to my session in the keynote for people wanting to learn more about Powerful Questions.

It All Starts With a Question, a Powerful One! – Toronto Agile Conference from Shahin Sheidaei

Some more photos when people are doing exercises of Powerful Questions:

Abstract of the talk:

We enjoy having conversations. Who doesn’t? We are social animals after all. We like to know more about each other’s stories. It is a feature built-in by default. As coaches, it is vital to use this basic instinct to our advantage. The easiest way to influence people is to have a conversation with them. You can use it coaching, mentoring, transformation, or just building a relationship with them. Can you imagine any of the above not to start with a conversation? I can’t!

Conversations are two-way streets. The easiest way to have a two-way communication is to ask questions. Questions can be dumb, unrelated, out of ordinary, crazy, or even beautiful. Can they be efficacious too? They can! An excellent communicator knows how and when to use Powerful Questions to make any conversation a mighty one.

Powerful Questions generate curiosity in the listener and stimulate thoughtful conversation. They are usually thought-provoking and challenges the underlying assumptions. Powerful Questions, if asked in the right tone and body language, generates creativity and new possibilities.

Is it hard to ask Powerful questions? It might be. It is not that easy, and indeed not natural for everyone. The good news is that it is something that can be learned, and relatively very easily.

I invite you to join me for a workshop on Powerful Questions. In this workshop, I am going to help you build your muscle to ask more Powerful Questions. I will give you an easy tool to make your questions more powerful, and conversations more enriched. Asking powerful questions will help you build bridges with people, you would become more empathetic with them, and do not be surprised you are going to listen more. Some of the characteristics of a great coach, one might say! Don’t you agree?

Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Session – Scenario 1 – Demonstrating different Question techniques
There will be scenario simulations. In these scenarios, I am going to ask a volunteer from the audience to have a conversation with. In the first round of conversation, I am going to show the importance of body language. The second round would be about the tone of the question that is being asked. The third round would be about the same scenario but asking a different question. One is a question that starts with Why and is personal. And the other one is a question that starts with What and is going deep. Then I ask him/her to pick which one he/she preferred.
Then I would ask the whole audience to pick one of the questions. By standing to the side of the room that the question is being presented.
Then I am going to talk about the one that most picked is an example of a powerful question.
Section 2 – Powerful Question
Then I am going to ask the audience to go through an exercise based on Deborah’s
It has two rounds, one is silent priority ordering and the next round is as a team. Then I do a debrief.
Section 3 – Powerful Questions and its Pyramid
For 10 minutes, I am going to talk about the Question and its power, its different dimensions (scope, construction, and assumptions) and how one can transform a question into a powerful one. Also, will be going to talk about the using of it, and when to use it.
Section 4 – Practice what they learned.
In groups of three, I will ask them to identify themselves as question Asker and storyteller. The storyteller is responsible for telling a story. I am going to introduce them with them pause and rewind coaching technique. The question Askers are going to ask questions. And whenever they have a question to ask, they will pause. Show the question to the other question Asker, and try to make it more powerful. And ask the more powerful question.
Final Debrief
In the final debrief, I am going to summarize what they learned. And how they were able to practice asking powerful questions. Any last minute question will be answered as well.

Learning Outcome:

In this session, you would learn
• How to avoid very bad Questions
• What defines a powerful question
• The three dimension of a powerful question (Construction, Scope, and Assumptions)
• how to become self-aware of yourself not asking a powerful question
A practical technique to practice powerful questions (pause and rewind)

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