Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 10 tips for asking questions from the audience, plus a bonus Secret of Adulthood.
(I know, it’s not actually Wednesday–I postponed the tips for one day.)
We’ve all been at panel discussions, large lectures, or big presentations. The Q-and-A period can be the most interesting part, but it sure helps if the audience does a good job of posing questions.
If you make a little effort, you can do a much better job of posing a question. It’s worth keeping in mind that whenever you speak in front of a group, people (speakers and audience) form an impression of you, so it’s a time to try to present yourself well. This is particularly important if you’re in a work environment—you have an opportunity to impress people whom you might not ordinarily meet.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to ask a speaker a question:
1. Wait for the microphone, if there is one.
2. Pause for silence – don’t talk over a chattering crowd.
3. Don’t make excuses for yourself. This is tiresome and unnecessary.
4. Don’t address speakers by their first names. Some people will disagree with me, I’m sure, but this always strikes me as affected and inappropriately familiar, unless the mood of the presentation is extremely casual.
5. Don’t be long-winded.
6. Plan it out. This will help you avoid being long-winded.
7. Don’t ask double question. Give other people a chance.
8. If appropriate, say a little about yourself. Just a little.
9. Speak up. Nothing’s more frustrating to the audience than not being able to hear a question.
10. Remember: you’ll be happy that you asked a question. I’m one of those people who rarely asks a question at such an occasion. I never spoke in class in law school. But whenever I do participate, I feel more engaged and enjoy myself more. I’m working on speaking up.
Bonus Secret of Adulthood: You know the situation when you’d like to talk to someone who is surrounded by chattering people—whether after a lecture or at a cocktail party? Here’s a Secret of Adulthood: In a group, it’s okay to stand next to a person, and just listen, while that person finishes a conversation, and in time, that person will turn to speak to you. Other people understand this. Other people do this. They won’t think you’re rude, or clueless. Yes, it feels awkward, but it works. (If you need further tips on making conversation, try here.)
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