How To Sound Credible When Asking A Question

 10th Nov 2018

You'll have seen it happen.

The speaker finishes their presentation and invites questions.

Up goes the first hand.

But instead of posing a simple question, the questioner drones on at length in a mini-peroration of their own.

They ramble... they drift... they over-complicate... 

 

Clearly, they think the audience is more interested in hearing the opinion of a fellow audience member, than what the speaker might have to say on the subject. 

When the question does eventually come, it's so darn complex that it's near-impossible for the speaker to discern what is actually being asked!

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Asking good questions is a skill.

It's also an important one - not just in presentations but in meetings, too.

What does "good" mean?

Clear, concise and relevant.

Too often, in an attempt to sound impressive, junior professionals in a meeting feel the obligation to 'say something spectacular'.

The risk is that you can end up simply sounding silly.

As one client of mine observed with a wince: "Can you help my junior people stop saying such stupid things in meetings?"

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The good news is that asking good questions is a skill which can be learnt.

If you choose to work on it, you should also find plenty of opportunities to practice!  
 
Here's a very simple tip for ensuring good, relevant questioning:

1) Give a summary

2) Pose a question


Let's deal with each in turn...

Rather than launching straight into your question, give a short summary first. This shows you've been listening and provides context for your question which will follow immediately after.

Crucially, it helps ensure that your contribution is relevant, provided your summary is confined to what they have said.

Stay with their agenda. Resist the temptation of setting out your views on the matter - otherwise you'll ramble!

So, you might acknowledge a specific point the speaker has made or a piece of data they referenced. Alternatively, you might briefly synthesise the meaning of a specific chunk of their content.

For example:

"I was struck by the comment you made about XYZ."

"In your presentation, you mentioned the importance of ABC."
 

Once you've done that, THEN go into your question.

Keeping your question simple is good.

Making your question 'open' rather than 'closed' is usually better.

Keeping your question single-minded is certainly best!

This may all sound simple. 

That doesn't mean it's easy to apply - give it a go and you'll see what I mean.

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When's your next meeting?

When will you next be in the audience listening to a speaker?

Give a Summary.

Pose a Question.

Simon gave me excellent advice on my upcoming talk for TEDxLBS - great pointers on both narrative and delivery that really put the final polish on my presentation!

 

Kelly Price | Senior Vice President, Oncology Business Unit at The Planning Shop International

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