Once we secure the first question in our group interactions (i.e. presentations, meetings, gatherings, events), we’re only halfway home. Our handling of that first question will largely determine whether we get more. It’s a test. These five techniques will help us pass:
- Demonstrate appreciation for the question.
- Be sincere with any remark about it.
- Associate questioner’s name to it.
- Explain how question helps you or the discussion.
- Keep answer short.
Appreciation can be as direct as saying, “Thank you for getting us started with your question. I appreciate it.” Indirectly, it can be a compliment about the question’s quality or about how it allows elaboration on a favorite topic. Avoid saying, “Good question,” as it’s trite and commonly known as a stall until we formulate our answer. Complimenting questions is very similar to complimenting people: we should tailor it.
Part of appreciating the question is realizing it belongs to the questioner. Therefore, we personify it with the questioner’s name. This also helps pragmatically by allowing us to reference the question easily without having to repeat (i.e. “As I was saying about Mike’s question . . .”).
We treat the first question as the gift it is. Whereas we demonstrate appreciation by complimenting its unique aspects, this treatment is more pragmatic, showing how it facilitates better understanding, exploring more detail or sharing additional points. While similar to a compliment, it’s more pragmatic by sharing how the question helps the discussion. People like to be helpful. It reinforces their sense of self-worth.
Finally, we keep our answer short. Extended answers kill future questions by exposing our anxiety that another might not be forthcoming.
These five techniques ensure more questions after the first and an interactive discussion. That interactivity give us and our points greater influence.