Public speaking is fundamental to my profession. Every week, without fail, I’m in front of an audience. Size and location vary — from a dozen people in a corporate boardroom to several hundred at a convention centre. Regardless of the size or scope or topic, I generally make sure there’s time provided for questions from the floor.
Many people are reluctant to ask a question. Call it inhibition or self-consciousness, bottom line; it’s good old-fashioned fear — getting in the way. On the other hand, there are folks just waiting to hear the sound of their own voices. Often “specialists” in one-upmanship, they tend to monopolize the time allowed, making everyone uncomfortable.
I’ve compiled a guide to help increase the comfort zone for everyone, so question periods become effective and useful tools.
Maximizing Q & A Period at Your Next Meeting
- Frame your question carefully before raising your hand.
- When there’s a large group, wait till you have the microphone, before asking your question.
- Pause, and wait for the audience to settle down.
- Briefly thank the speaker. A simple — “Thank you for taking my question” — is sufficient.
- Don’t use the speaker’s first name unless the atmosphere is casual and all the participants are on equal footing.
- Introduce yourself but keep it short; “I’m Bob Jones from IT and my question is…..”
- Speak up. Your brief introduction is a personal sound check. Modify your voice if you think you can’t be heard.
- One question only is the rule — stay focused. Weaving multiple questions together isn’t fair play.
- Same goes for a complicated question requiring a long, drawn out answer. This isn’t the right forum for explaining the quantum theory. Keep your question simple.
- If you’ve already asked your question but sense it overstepped boundaries — too complicated, requires an elaborate answer, has caught the speaker off-guard — immediately back off and say; “I think this is a subject for another time. Thank you.”
- Avoid sensitive questions that could offend either the speaker or the audience. What works in the movies is just plain rude in real life.
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