Monday, April 5, 2010

Public Speaking Tips: Advice on Q&A

One of the most often overlooked aspects of public speaking is answering questions. Should be simple enough right? Not necessarily. There are various common mistakes people make when addressing questions in a speaking situation.

Some of these mistakes are:
- Interrupting the questioner
- Not answering the question clearly & concisely
- Trying to answer a question they don't know the answer to
- Stumbling through an answer

Now we all answer questions during informal and formal occasions, so this post is designed to provide a proven way to answer questions professionally, concisely, and correctly every time. These principles are not only helpful for public speaking, but also in interview and job situations.

First, let's talk about format. Now, we all know how to speak correctly and concisely, but sometimes we try to speak before we have collected our thoughts. When we do, we often insert unnecessary words such as "like," "so," "uh," and "um." These verbal fillers take away from what we're saying as well as take away from our credibility as a speaker. By taking the time to slow down and concentrate on a structure, you are more apt to answer questions with a logical and concise flow.

Here is an easy four-step format I use and teach my students to use:
1) Restate the question (make sure you're answering the right one)
2) Compliment the question (say something like, "that's a great question," giving yourself a moment to collect your thoughts)
3) Answer concisely (keep it tight, don't ramble)
4) Verify with questioner that you've answer the question (give them a chance to follow-up)

Note: Steps 1 and 2 can be interchanged.

By following these four steps, you will not only give yourself time to collect yourself, especially for those tough questions, you will sound more credible and intelligent when you do.

Here are a few more tips for answering questions:
- Never try to answer a question you don't know. Instead admit your lack of knowledge and perhaps offer up what you do know in exchange and/or say something like "I will get back to you on that."
- Always insert silence rather than verbal fillers like "um," "uh," "so," or "like." These words take away from what you're saying.
- Answer only the question being asked. Don't offer more than you have to.

As stated earlier, these tips can be used for not only public speaking situations, but also during job, and especially, interview situations. They can help you keep a cool head and calm demeanor during those rapid fire sessions that test your knowledge.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


It's been far too long since I took this blog seriously and I need to get back into it. I've been reading over the various tips from blogs like ProBlogger, CopyBlogger, etc. I decided to start specific themes and I'm looking for input regarding specific topics.

Here are my areas:
Public Speaking Tips
Teaching Minute (for the TA & beyond)
The Week in Politics (going beyond the obvious)
Higher Education Issues
Tech Philosophy (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn)

What would you like to hear about in these areas? Do you have suggestions for other areas I might explore?