Not All Questions Are Created Equal

By Josh Schoenblatt

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
~Thomas Berger

A question is a time to dig for knowledge, gain a new perspective, or better yours and the audience’s understanding of a topic. It’s a time for enlightenment, however few people understand this concept.

Asking a good question is difficult no matter who you are or what the topic is about. When its occurs at a Q&A session, so many things are running through your mind. You may want to: ask a question, get to know the speaker, tell him/her about your life, get their advice, and many other things all at once. The only problem is that this is not the right place nor time for any of these things except asking a question.

A question during a Q&A session will never cause the speaker to respond with “meet me after the meeting so we can grab a coffee.” Try as people might, it just will not happen. However, not all people come with these intentions. So, here are a few tips for formulating and asking a good question:

1. Do not talk about yourself.

“I own every one of your books” is not a necessary statement before asking your question. Neither is “I am your biggest fan.” If it starts with I, it is probably not appropriate at this time.

2. Choose ONE topic.

Choosing a single topic is difficult, but there are enough people asking questions that most of the topics you are thinking about will be asked anyway.

3. Narrow down the topic to a single question.

The narrower the question, the easier it will be for the speaker to answer said question. The point here is not to stump the speaker or prove your point. The audience did not pay to hear you prove your opinion. If that was the case, you would be on stage instead of the speaker. So questions please, not self-fulfilling  statement questions.

4. Questions, not explanatory questions.

 Many times it feels like the question needs a long wind-up of background information before the question can be asked. Wrong. Background information can be used, but is should be used sparingly. The background information is like garlic, a little goes a long way.

5. Continue to think about your question.

Try to rephrase it, write it down, or just keep it fresh in your mind. Sometimes the more you think about something, the better it can become.

6. Repetition is not worth it.

This is not your 15 minutes of fame. You will find other opportunities to shine bright and show the world how awesome you are. So if someone asks your question, or a question that will lead to a similar answer, do not ask it.

7. If you really want to ask a question to the speaker, repeat steps 2-6 to create a couple questions, but most importantly, ASK ONLY ONE OF THEM.

Follow-up questions should not be necessary if your question is pointed and relevant to the speech. There are occasions where the speaker may not have understood your question, in which case a follow up is acceptable.

Questions are tricky, and almost never easy to formulate. We all have these issues when formulating questions, but time is what makes the difference between a good question and the alternative. So before you get up to speak, take a moment to think about what point you want to get across.

One thought on “Not All Questions Are Created Equal

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