Let’s have fun this week. I have recently attended several discussions or events (Shirin Ebadi, Questlove, Padma Lakshmi) followed by Q & A and I will admit that how certain individuals ask questions is a pet peeve of mine. So, given that I have a few upcoming events (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Steinem, Trevor Noah) to attend, view this as a PSA on what not to do when asking a question.
(Note, these events are curtesy of the Chicago Humanities Festival, which is a wonderful organization that brings noted icons and leaders for thought-provoking and inspirational discussions. Check out CHF here.)
How to ask an effective question.
Keep it short and simple: Please do not hog the mic. At one event, sometime had the audacity to stand and say, “I actually have three questions.” Seriously?! If time allowed for Q & A is 10 minutes and your question takes five minutes to ask, then you have taken up half the time. The more time your question takes the less time the presenter has to respond. And fewer people will have the opportunity the ask their questions. Keep your question to one or two sentences. Even write it down before asking so you can ensure brevity.
This is not about you: While you might have a great story, the audience is not there to hear about you, they are they to hear about the presenter. At another event (about promises), someone stood and told the story of their making a certain promise to themselves and then being derailed by cancer yet finally achieving that promise. A heartwarming story yes yet her story was not the reason the audience bought tickets to the event. Sorry, check your ego at the door.
Actually ask a question: Remember, people are choosing to be at the event. Chances are they like, respect, or admire the presenter. Even if you have a celebrity crush, your question should not be how much you “love” the person. Yes, you can pay the presenter a compliment but then actually ask a question. Without a question, you do not further the dialogue and again, hearing from the presenter is why people are in attendance.
Ok, hopefully that helps you be a more constructive audience member and not one whom others are rolling their eyes at.