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You can’t ask that

I once heard a similar story about a delegation from the EU visiting US schools, pretty much getting the same response…

For about 20 minutes the Chinese side impressed their guests with slick presentations, and a deluge of facts and figures; everything from the number of trees being planted, to the treatment of Olympic sewage.

The presentation complete, the group of Chinese officials sat back smiling, confident that the foreigners had been suitably impressed. But Ken and Seb clearly hadn’t read the script.

Lord Coe immediately launched into a string of questions: “How would the facilities be used after the Olympics? What percentage of energy used during the Olympics will come from renewable sources? How would the Chinese achieve their aim of making the Olympics carbon-neutral?”

A look of panic came over the officials faces. Why were these foreigners asking questions? Hadn’t they been listening to the carefully prepared presentation?

For a few minutes the officials floundered and waffled, before the meeting was brought to a swift close.

[BBC News – Olympic Games the Chinese way]

In much the same way the EU delegates to an education seminar in the US were quite impressed with the presentation given by a US education team. What the EU delegates missed is that the presentation was slick, impressive and full of stats because there was nothing else the US team could offer. They did not expect the EU delegates to be so impressed or even ask questions. The presentation was brought to a swift end thanks to a well placed call to a cell phone and shocked comments of “…with a gun!”.

Moral of story: in order to end a meeting ask lots of awkward, enthusiastic questions.

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