A Question is Coming

by Joseph Kwon in


Chaos isn't a pit. Chaos is a ladder.
Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm or the gods or love. Illusions.
Only the ladder is real.
The climb is all there is.
Petyr Baelish (from Games of Thrones episode "The Climb")

Imagine you've just listened to a top-notch presentation by Bob, an expert on corporate strategy. He's clearly a fan of the HBO hit Game of Thrones and has even used some short, dramatic video clips to illustrate his talking points. You check the time, shift in your seat, and look up as Bob asks, "Does anyone have any questions?"

Ever notice that some people's questions seem so polished and generate a much better response not just from the presenter, but the audience? Ever stir up the courage to ask a question before a packed room only to let your nerves get the best of you? Ever have a sophisticated question in your head end up as a rambling, garbled question as you speak?

Don't be discouraged. With a few EZPZ steps, you can improve your question-asking skills.

#1. Address the presenter by their name. Nothing sounds as sweet to a person as the sound of their own name. Well, perhaps it's second only to the ka-ching of winning the lottery, but it's a close second and it shows respect.

#2. Mention your name. You're asking a great question and are showing interest, so give yourself a little credit and personal branding.

#3. (Optional) Pay a compliment. This should be based on what you know about the presenter or what they said or did during the presentation. Be sincere. People can smell fakeness a mile away.

#4. Frame your question with the "why." Including the raison d'etre for your question makes it more interesting and allows for a better answer. A seemingly random question can be unsettling and make the presenter feel like an ATM from which you are trying to make a clumsy withdrawal.

Advanced technique: Where it makes sense, echo back terminology or examples that the presenter has just used.

Now you're back in the room and Bob makes eye contact, extends his arm towards you and invites you to proceed. Let's see how you do...

Good, but you can do better
What do you do when you don't know who to trust?

Better
Hi Bob, thanks so much for taking the time to present to us. My name is Joe Kwon and I was wondering what your advice would be for someone who finds themselves in a business situation where they don't know who to trust.

Best
Hi, Bob, I really enjoyed your creative use of video. My name is Joe Kwon and a large part of success in my field depends on figuring out who to trust in a short amount of time. Going back to your Game of Thrones analogy, if you were in Cersei's shoes and didn't know who to trust, how would you approach that in a business setting?

You owe a debt to yourself to raise your hand and ask a good question when you are in good company. Make like a Lannister - always pay your debts.

Good luck!

Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.