Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Ask a Question Well During a Q&A Time

We've all been there, probably. The seating is full, the speaker we all came to hear has given a good talk, and now he or she is going to take questions from the audience. Hands are raised, people are called on.

And one or more of those chosen to ask a question spends way too much time trying to:
a) Impress the speaker with the depth of his or her knowledge of the speaker's work
b) Impress the speaker and the audience with a recitation of his or her experience, background, or accomplishments
c) Give all sorts of set-up and context for a question that really doesn't need it.

We ought to be gracious in thinking of these "Me Monster" interlocutors, but they ought to be gracious with the rest of those present, as well. :-)

Is this person you? Do you know that the more time you take not asking a question during your moment can be a manifestation of self-centeredness? Not to mention that it robs other people of being able to ask questions too. The longer you take, the less time there is for others.

So how do you ask a question during a Q&A time?

1. Skip the autobiography unless a concise personal note gives needed context for your question.
2. Skip adulation of the speaker unless you can offer a short "thank you for speaking here today."
3. Just ask a question.

If the speaker needs more details or context, he or she can ask for them.



B-U-R-L-Y said...

The best ever "me monster" question at an event where I was present was at Northwestern U. Tim Keller (he's a mild-mannered pastor out of a little church in small town New York) came to speak at a Veritas event. The question-er said:

"I'm a huge fan. I've listened to about 150 of your sermons. I was wondering why you basically ignored any discussion of Melchizidek in your sermon series in Genesis." Keller was super-duper-gracious. The question had absolutely-positively-nothing to do with anything Keller had just spoken about.

I rarely ask questions at events like these, but if I were to do so, I'd start out by declaring "I'm in the limelight; because I rhyme tight." I'd then "sweep the leg" (so to say) of the presenter with my vast knowledge. But I digress (like the me monster that I am) ...

Anonymous said...

I see a similar thing with prayer requests in church.

Rather than just saying something like "My daughter has the flu, please pray for her", it turns into a 5-minute monologue of everything that's happened to the kid since birth. It dominates the time keeping others from getting their requests heard.

Some people just love the attention, I guess.

Doug Hannah said...

We have a saying in radio -- "The longer the question, the shorter the answer".

Roberta said...

Maybe handing out 3x5 cards for people to write down their question on would be helpful. If a person would have to give background they would probably make it short.