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How to Ask Great Questions in Public Without Looking Foolish

by The Business Alchemist

in Product Development, Public Speaking

SeminarAs we all know, the secret to solving any problem is asking the right question. I’ve been wondering why we often find this difficult and it reminded me of an earlier blog http://www.paulforsythe.org/ideas-development-learning-from-an-expert/ that we’re all naturally creative until education and experience teach us not to be. Children are curious and ask a lot of questions. In doing so, they often reveal a different way to look at the situation.

Over the next two or three blogs I’m going to write about how the way we ask questions is a valuable resource that enables us to find new answers to any problem. The most difficult question to answer, however, is the one you didn’t ask so I’m going to address this first.

So why don’t we ask questions ? I’m going to guess that the most common reason is Fear. We don’t want to look foolish in front of our customers or fellow professionals by asking a question when we should already know the answer. Is this fear justified ? Think back to the last time you attended an event and somebody in the audience actually raised his hand and asked a question.

  • Did you already know the answer ? If so did you think any less of him for asking ?
  • Were you curious about the answer ? If so, did you gain knowledge because he asked
  • Were you hoping that somebody would ask that question ? That “somebody” got the credit that could have been yours
  • Did you discover that what you “knew” was wrong ? If he hadn’t asked, you would still be wrong

If we ask a question, we may feel that we look foolish for a couple of minutes but we will now have an answer. If we don’t ask it, that feeling will come afterward when we feel bad that we threw away the opportunity to find an answer.

So here are a few tips to make sure that you get the most out of any presentation and look good to the rest of the audience:

  • Decide from the start that you will ask a question and make a note of anything you would like to know more about. This will keep you alert and engaged with the presentation
  • Remember that everybody, even the speaker, wants a question. Nobody enjoys that embarrassing silence at the end of the talk waiting for somebody brave enough to go first. That can be you.
  • Ask a question that will expand everyone’s knowledge, not demonstrate your own. An interesting question gives the speaker an opportunity to be natural. It’s what the audience will remember, including your contribution.
  • If you can, ask a “What if?” question. It won’t have an obvious answer and the question identifies you as thoughtful and imaginative.
  • Give the speaker your contact details afterward. You’ve probably seeded some new thoughts in his mind and he will want to discuss them with you.

If you follow these few simple rules, you will raise your profile as a thought leader and expert, resulting in more and better contacts with a growing reputation to justify your charges.

In my next blog I’ll discuss the questions to ask that enable you to solve problems when your existing knowledge and experience haven’t worked.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact me via the link below and also receive my report “Ten Practical Tips to Find Original Answers to Any Business Problem”.

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