It happens every day: The mind blanks as the talk ends and the speaker closes with: “Any questions?” The room quiets and it seems that nothing can be recalled from the just concluded talk. It is particularly awkward when no one at all responds. What happened? Better, what can be done to get the discussion going.
There is a skill to being ready for these questions. For some, it’s second nature. If it isn’t though, a little preparation can make the questions come to mind much easier.
Three Steps for Quick Questions–Finding, Keeping, Asking
Find the topics that raise questions.
For some people, the topics appear to be completely covered by the speaker and there is to be added. The trick is to listen more critically to identify areas of further interest. Here, it may be appropriate to listen for consequences.
The premise of Listening for Consequences is that in order to understand what someone is saying, the consequences must also be considered. This technique allows questions to surface and adds another dimension to understanding the subject. The above link describes this method with examples.
Keep the hooks for the questions.
Most talks proceed so fast that topics come and go before the listeners can fully consider them. Some points do raise questions, but, in a flash, the speaker is on to the next topic. For those points that do raise questions, though, make a mental or written note (one or two words will do), so that it can be used to bring it back to mind when the question period begins
Ask without judging the question.
Prejudging the quality of the question is the major deterrent to actually putting it forward. No need to wait and let the pressures mount.
The fact is that most questions are fine. This fact can help to defuse the inhibition of the naturally occurring doubt. The only questions that are not well received are those with long introductions that serve primarily to demonstrate the questioner’s expertise. Long winded questions are not asked by people concerned with the quality of their own question.
Just as in tennis, the asking the question is like the serve that puts the ball into play. Then, it is the speaker’s responsibility to do what he wishes with it.
Asking quick questions is related to the short article: Getting Ideas into the Discussion.