How do you feel about Q&A sessions? I’m referring to YOU being in front of a room, answering questions from the audience. Do you dread the Q&A?
I realize I am an anomaly here, but I love being on the firing line of a Q&A! I never know what someone’s going to ask. It’s so suspenseful! More on “suspense” below…
In particular, I appreciate receiving communication skills Qs from listeners, so please keep them coming!
The latest Talk About Talk podcast episode features nine listener Qs, and I hope to do many more episodes like this.
3 things to Talk About this week:
1. What’s the most common communication skills question?
2. When should we ask questions?
3. Why are you leaving us in suspense?
1️⃣ What’s the most common communication skills question?
Are you curious about what the most common question is that I hear from clients?
Well, that’s the question that Talk About Talk podcast listener “Adam” asked me, and that’s how we kicked off this Q&A episode. (Thank you, Adam!)
So… can you guess what the most common communication skills question is that people ask me?
The most common question that I get depends on the audience. It seems to be closely correlated to the person’s career stage:
- Junior-level and younger managers often ask me about CONFIDENCE. They often struggle with imposter syndrome and have been told they need to speak up more in meetings.
- Senior-level and c-suite clients often ask me about PERSONAL BRANDING. These folks are focused on clarifying their professional identity.
Where are you on this continuum?
2️⃣ When should we ask questions?
The obvious answer: “We should ask questions when we don’t to know something.” 🙄
But consider this: there is value in asking questions beyond acquiring information.
In my experience, asking questions is an under-leveraged communication skill that can serve us well in a variety of contexts.
Imagine you’ve just heard someone express an opinion with which you disagree. Your instinct may be to tell the other person why you’re right and they’re wrong.
Is this the most productive way to resolve a disagreement? Probably not.
Instead, you could try asking questions.
Here are a few other contexts when you might ask questions, beyond simply acquiring information and resolving disagreements:
- Encouraging others to talk more
- Shifting the focus or topic of conversation
- Demonstrating your respect for the other person
- Building relationships
- Engaging others in the room
- Implicitly demonstrating that you, yourself, are engaged!
3️⃣ Why are you leaving us in suspense?
Talk About Talk listener “Dan” asked me a great question about the value of suspense versus getting to the point. Which is the better communication strategy? (Great question, Dan! Thank you.)
Is it more effective to build suspense toward a big reveal at the end, or should we get to our point right away?
Here’s my answer:
- Building SUSPENSE is a great strategy for fiction – novels, movies, tv shows, etc.
- For professional contexts (business, academia, medicine), get to your main point IMMEDIATELY.
Trust me, I learned this the hard way, as you’ll hear in this week’s podcast episode… (“Andrea, get to your point, or we walk!” 😳)
unless they know where it’s headed.”
In other words, if you want people to read your email, listen to your presentation, or engage in your meeting, then get to the point immediately. Tell them where you’re headed. (Thank you to podcasting expert Dave Jackson for this metaphor.)
Try this 3-step framework to help you focus while helping your audience internalize the information:
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you told them
For more on getting to the point, I recommend this book, Smart Brevity.
Smart Brevity is all about optimizing your communication, staying focused, and getting your main point across in a way that is concise but not shallow.
Get to the point!
Executive Communication Coach
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