Creative Q&A

Published by Jackie Barrie on

As you may know, I hosted a book launch party above a pub in Charing Cross on the evening of 21 June 2019.

As part of the event, everyone was invited to pick up an emoji keyring and pen when they arrived.

After a quick author interview, I invited my guests to pair up by finding the person with the matching keyring. (That idea is in the Groups chapter.)

The pairs had to think of a question about the book, write it on a piece of paper, screw it up and throw it to me at the front of the room. (That idea is in the Icebreaker chapter.)

Here’s a brief video showing how it went:

There are many advantages to doing a Q&A this way.

  • It’s fun for the audience to throw paper at you (watch out for any paper planes that might hit you in the eye)
  • You can take questions even from a big audience without the need for a roving mic
  • It adds a delicious element of surprise as you open each one
  • You can pick which questions you answer. This means you won’t get derailed by a question that takes you off-topic, nor by one of those audience members who don’t want to ask a question but do want to show off what they know. If do you get an inappropriate question, just pretend you can’t read the writing, or the paper is blank, or that you’ve already answered something similar, and move on quickly to the next one
  • Questions are anonymous so people won’t be shy
  • You find out what everyone really wants to know, not just those who are bravest or most outspoken
  • You can follow up all the unanswered questions with a blog post or webinar

As promised, here are the questions there was no time to answer on the night.


How long did it take Jackie to write her book?
How long did it take you to write the book?
How long did it take to write the book?
Why did it take so long to release?

Four groups asked this question, so lots of people clearly want to know. The answer is that it took about two years elapsed time (not continuous). My working hours are completely packed with copywriting and training/speaking engagements. So I wrote it during holidays, evenings, weekends and bank holidays – whenever I could find a spare moment. I also took a couple of days off for focused book-writing retreats with Antoinette, my book-writing buddy. So it represents a significant investment of time.

The other reason is that each chapter links to a video of me demonstrating the activity with a live audience, and it took a while to capture and edit them all. Obviously, I couldn’t take a videographer along when I ran the activities with my private clients. So most of the footage was shot when I was booked to demonstrate them at events for speakers and trainers, in the UK and Canada.

I did this because I wanted the book itself to be interactive, and for the explanations to be as clear as they could possibly be. The videos make the books different from any other, and they mean people who want to try any activity themselves can see and hear my instructions, and witness the audience response.

Did she self-publish?
Did you have problems with formatting and publishing?

Originally, I was only going to produce a Kindle book, with live links to the videos. That’s because I find most business people don’t buy print books any more. At the last minute, I decided to produce a print version as well. Print books work well as gifts, and as the world’s best business card.

I self-published through Lulu.com. I’ve used them before for my other books and for my Grandad’s WW1 diary, so I knew my way around the system. They submit the finished book to Amazon and all the other online bookstores.

I used their templates, and there is a discrepancy between how they behave on Mac and PC. I had to turn to my sister (RosemaryHelpdesk.co.uk) to fix the headers and footers.

The only other problem I had was the day of editing that I lost on a corrupt USB stick before I had the chance to save my work into the cloud (oops, old school).

Has she written a book before? On this or a similar subject?

In 2010, I published The Little Fish Guide to DIY Marketing. I followed that with The Little Fish Guide to Networking and The Little Fish Guide to Writing your own Website.

I haven’t promoted them for ages but a few copies are still sold every month. I should probably update them…

How many different books?

I’ve started a blog which will include video interviews with other speakers sharing their own favourite icebreakers, energisers and games. Potentially, that could turn into a second volume. I’ve also launched a Facebook group where people can share how they’ve adapted these exercises for their own use.

Were there any ideas you had to reject?

I was tempted to include loads of ideas I’ve used about how to gamify gift-giving for teenagers. However, that’s a different audience, so I might write a different book about that.

How have you marketed the book?
How is she going to promote the book on TV?
Is it on Kindle?

So far, I’ve mentioned it in my newsletter and on my social media platforms. Several people have offered to promote it on their newsletters and in their radio shows and podcasts. I really appreciate their support and will take up their invitation as soon as it’s live on Amazon.

I haven’t yet been invited to discuss it on TV, but you never know…

Yes, it will be released on Kindle. I’ll share the link as soon as it’s ready.

How could the book be used in non-training environments e.g. team-building etc.?
What are the activities geared to?
Is the book geared to any particular profession?
How do the exercises in the book translate across cultures?
Will the exercises work in any culture?
If you are a speaker speaking to a multi-disability group, how easy or obvious is it to adapt the activities?
How do we adapt this to make accessible to all abilities?

The activities can be used by anyone who speaks, trains, presents or facilitates any group.

Some suit a main stage keynote speech. Most suit a smaller group setting.

I’ve suggested learning outcomes for each one – networking and team-building are obvious benefits.

I’ve used them successfully with a range of audiences in the UK. I wasn’t sure if they’d also work in Canada… but they did. I haven’t yet tried them anywhere else.

I’ve used them with adult business audiences. Most of my delegates are in their 20s and 30s, occasionally with people in their 40s and 50s. They always go down well.

My target audience isn’t schools, but I’ve used the paper-tearing exercise with an audience of sixth-formers, and Jackie Handy told me she’s used the paper-throwing Q&A in a school with great success.

I stress that the activities should be adapted according to your personal style, your client, your audience and your learning outcome.

You have to adapt according to your audience. Obviously, you can’t use activities that involve running about if you have people with mobility issues. And you can’t ask people to close their eyes if they’re lip-reading.

How can we adapt these to avoid single-use plastic?

It’s true that a lot of event giveaways are plastic, and that’s become a hot topic. However, all the activities in my book involve no props at all, or just paper and pen (which can be recycled and reused).

What do you do about people who are shy and this sort of thing is so far out of their comfort zone?
How does this stuff work with introverts?

I think it all depends how you set it up in the first place.

The event marketing has to make clear that your session is going to be interactive. Talk to the organisers to check they are happy with what you’re planning to do. Find out if anyone is likely to have an issue, and talk to them in advance if you can.

In your instructions, always allow people to opt out if they want to. For example, in the pass-the-parcel exercise in the icebreaker chapter, I have appointed people as adjudicators if they don’t want to play.

There is a common misconception about introverts. They are people who get their energy from being alone. That doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy being around people, just that they might need to escape occasionally for five minutes of quiet to recoup their energy.

That’s different from people who are shy.

I address this subject in the introduction to the book, also in the chapter on groups, where I describe an exercise that Andy Lopata runs in a style to suit shy people: first thinking on their own, then in pairs, then a small group, finally a bigger group.

I make each exercise as inclusive as I can.

Where does the inspiration come from for the exercises?

Some have been adapted from exercises I experienced when I was a senior manager in the corporate world in the 1980s and ’90s. Some are inspired by TV shows and board games. Others I have devised myself.

I always credit the source.

Limited attention span?

I’m not sure what this question means, but the whole point of the activities is to address the issue of audiences having a limited attention span.

Rather than having to sit and listen, perhaps for a whole day, they engage in a quick activity – but only when it reinforces the learning point. None of the activities are just for fun (even though they are fun).

How do you handle tumbleweed?
How do you wake people up?
What do you do when you see people start glazing over – public speaking or personal?!!

I haven’t had this problem. If I did, I would call it out, saying: “It feels as though we need to get some energy into the room. Let’s take a five-minute break.” Or “…Let’s open a window.” Or “…Let’s turn the temperature down a bit.”

Alternatively, I’d go straight to one of the activities that involves moving about. That gets the blood flowing to their brain. (I think that’s why they’re called energisers.)

If I was delivering the same talk in future, I’d amend it so the ‘dip’ didn’t recur.

Worst audience – how did you win them over?

I genuinely can’t think of a time I had to win over a ‘worst’ audience. I am aware of a couple of times when I’ve tried and failed to win over an individual. Looking back, it’s been when they’ve been ‘sent’ rather than chosen to attend, and they haven’t been properly briefed. On the rare occasions when it happens, I blame myself because I haven’t set it up right in advance, and/or I haven’t been self-deprecating enough.

Do you genuinely have no fear of public speaking or is part of this a cover-up of your fear?

That’s a really interesting question. I haven’t thought about my fear of public speaking for a long time. Yes, I used to be afraid of stepping into the spotlight. These days, I still get a tingle of anticipation that might once have been fear. I take it as a sign that I care about what I do.

My drive is not to be in front of an audience. It’s not about me. It’s about the message I’m trying to communicate. I only get booked when people want to learn from my specialist experience, and I try to do that in the most creative and interesting way I can.

As a professional copywriter, I know sometimes the best way to get your message across is by the written word, on paper or on screen. Sometimes it’s through the spoken word, at a live event or webinar. And sometimes it’s best communicated by an activity that the audience undertakes.

That’s where this book comes in.


1 Comment

Jackie Barrie · 11 Aug 2019 at 3:36 pm

I found this pack of icebreaker questions that might be useful. https://uk.bestself.co/collections/all/products/icebreaker-deck

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