Denise Graveline on Graceful ways with Q & A

Some speakers love Q & A. Others dread it. No matter which group you are in, this session will share tips for how to plan for your question time, how to handle questions when you don't know the answer, and how to make sure your Q & A session enhances your presentation. Denise Graveline is a Washington, DC-based speaker coach who has coached nearly 200 TEDMED and TEDx speakers. Denise offers inspiration, ideas and information on her blog, The Eloquent Woman.

Start time:
Location: Mountain View Commons
Duration: 54 minutes
Channels: Main, Tech Speakers

Tags: techspeakers, public speaking, masterclass, mozilla tech speakers, moztechspeakers

Views since archived: 46

- Hello, and welcome.

Welcome Mozilla Tech Speakers,

and welcome Mozilla staff,

today is March 9th, thank you for joining us

for the third presentation of the

Tech Speakers Master Class Series,

in the fifth week of the Winter 2017 Tech Speakers Cohort,

we're delighted you could make time for us today.

We're also delighted to have a special guest

with us today to present, Ms. Denise Graveline,

she'll be presenting Graceful Ways with Q & A.

Our Tech Speakers may remember Denise from Berlin,

she's served as a professional speaking coach,

for our Tech Speakers, over the last summer.

Today, as I mentioned, she'll be presenting

Graceful Ways with Q & A,

and Denise is a professional speaking consultant,

and TED Talk trainer,

she comes to us from the Washington, D.C. area,

she's also author of The Eloquent Woman blog.

Please, if you're Mozilla staff,

we'll be monitoring questions,

in the Tech Speakers IRC Channel,

additionally, we'll be monitoring questions

in the Telegram Channel for our Tech Speakers as well,

so please join me in welcoming Denise.


- Thanks Michael, and I have a question before we start

talking about questions, and that is,

does anyone have any questions for my answers?

That's something that a U.S. Secretary of State

said before a news conference a long time ago,

and it was little bit of a joke,

he was trying to get the reporters to laugh.

But I think he actually gave away a secret,

and that is that most speakers

would really love Q & A,

if they thought that people had questions

that fit their answers perfectly, right.

And it's where we don't have questions

that fit our answers perfectly,

that speakers get nervous about Q & A.

Now some speakers love Q & A,

I've worked with a lot of speakers,

and some of them say me,

I hate presenting, but I love Q & A.

And why is that?

I think that's because they don't,

they feel confined by the presentation,

they feel they have to memorize,

they feel they have to look and sound like an expert.

But they feel more like an expert during Q & A,

and it's true that Q & A is a great way

for you to establish yourself

and your expertise, with great credibility.

So I think that's why some speakers love it,

but others really worry that Q & A is not predictable.

So they worry they can embarrass themselves,

they may not know the answer to a question,

they may not look like an expert, right,

they may not feel like an expert.

So that's a big issue,

and it's a big issue early in your career as well,

you know, but it's,

I have to tell the people who are early in their careers,

there are people who are very senior,

who feel the same way for the rest of their lives.

I think you don't have to feel that way,

and a lot of it involves preparation for Q & A.

When you ask a question, or you answer a question,

you are actually giving a very short speech.

But most of us don't think about it that way, right,

and you should plan,

if you're in the audience asking questions,

you should plan your question.

If you're standing up

in front of the room answering questions,

you should be planning your answers as well,

and we'll talk about that today.

You also get to moderate the discussion in the room,

generally, if you're a single speaker,

you'll be moderating the questions,

you'll be choosing the people who ask the questions,

you'll be deciding how long your answers are.

So all of that involves planning as well.

And you know, Q & A is an opportunity

to make yourself look great,

you can look casual and relaxed,

you can look on point,

you can be very decisive sounding,

and you can be very expert in, you know,

expert like to the audience,

by looking knowledgeable, by looking insightful,

by sharing your perspective.

So I think there is a world of possibility for Q & A,

and today, I've got three things I really want to focus on,

for how to have Graceful Ways with Q & A,

and that's to plan your Q & A,

to predict the questions that you're going to get,

and I believe you can, very easily predict them

maybe not in the way you think.

And then to problem solve question and answer time,

both in advance and in real time,

because in fact, no matter how much planning you do,

there's is always going to be

a question you didn't anticipate.

So we'll talk about all of that.

So first, let's talk about planning,

and by planning Q & A, really what I mean is,

you need to start planning your presentation

by planning the question time first.

And this is something that most speakers do not do,

so I would say 99% of my clients,

make the presentation and then sit down and say,

what kind of questions am I going to get?

Or, if they anticipate the questions first, they say,

ah, I'm going to get a question about this,

so I'll put it in the presentation,

and that way, I won't get a question about this, right.

So they try to inoculate the presentation

against getting that question.

But in fact, I also have clients

who come to me and say, you know what,

I didn't get any questions,

the last time that I spoke.

Why is that?

And part of the reason you don't get questions is

that you included too much information in your presentation.

You didn't leave the audience anything to ask,

so you know, there's no presentation that really

can contain 100% of the knowledge on that topic.

No matter how much you try, right.

But you need to be able to leave some things

for the audience to ask.

So the first step is to say,

you know, what questions do I believe I'm going to

get from this particular audience.

If you know the audience, sometimes that's easy to guess,

sometimes people will tell you,

sometimes you have a tool that will let you solicit

questions in advance, and you should always use that.

You can also think about questions that you expect,

and leave that content out of your presentation.

Now I know that's a bit of challenge for some people,

and some people would say, that doesn't make sense to them,

and that's fine.

But I guarantee you, if you know that you're to get

a question about something,

and you leave it our of your presentation,

you will get that question, and guess what,

then you already know the answer.

So far from being in the position

of not having an answer ready,

you look great, you look smart,

because you've anticipated that you will get that question,

you've anticipated you will get that answer.

And then you can proceed to plan the Q & A,

in a way that makes sense to you.

Now a lot of speakers,

when they're planning their presentations,

just choose to leave out Q & A time entirely,

they take up the entire amount of time

that's stated on the program,

or if the organizer says, we're going to speak,

you're going to speak for an hour,

they take up 59 minutes and 32 seconds of the hour, right.

So there's really no time for questions.

And that's a tactic, so it's a tactic for a couple reasons,

there are speakers who believe that they must

get as much time as possible out of every presentation.

And they believe that time for you to ask a question,

is time they don't get to talk,

this is incorrect, but that's the feeling with some.

There's also, I see a couple of other trends,

one is, the TED Conference, I coach speakers for the

TEDMED Conference and for a lot of TEDx Conferences,

and as you probably know, for the last 25 or 30 years,

TED has simply had no Q & A,

there is not an opportunity for Q & A.

The only exception to that,

is when we have a speaker who is a celebrity,

typically, who is interviewed on stage by somebody

from the, from the show, right.

So that's the only questioning

that really happens at a TED Conference.

And there's a reason for that,

the people who created TED,

decided the Q & A was not something

that they wanted to include,

so they very decidedly left it out.

I see a lot of conferences now that do the same,

so they're going for shorter talks,

less Q & A, less interaction from the stage,

but as at the TED Conferences,

speakers are expected to mingle,

and connect in real, you know, in person,

off the stage, at breaks, or at meals,

or other parts of the event.

So it's possible to have that interaction, you know,

one to one, as opposed to one to 1,000, or 1,500.

But for some people,

they really would like to ask questions, right.

So when you have big ideas, like you do at TED Conferences,

they provoke a lot of thinking in the audience,

and people do want Q & A,

they're not going to be satisfied at a TED Conference.

I also see, you know,

I blog about women and public speaking, as Michael said,

and I see a lot of my clients in other,

particularly young women in tech,

in this industry in particular,

who omit Q & A, because they're afraid of getting

trolled or harassed during the question time.

And it's true that some people

take advantage of the open opportunity

to ask questions to bedevil the speaker, right.

This doesn't happen exclusively to women,

but it happens a lot to women,

and so as a protective measure,

many women are saying that's it,

I'm going to speak for all 60 minutes

of my 60 minute talk,

or all 20 minutes of my 20 minute talk.

And that's certainly a decision you can make for yourself,

if you feel at risk, and I've certainly had

clients who have been harassed during and after their talks,

I don't blame them one moment

for protecting themselves in such a way,

however, what I will say to you is,

you're losing an opportunity with Q & A.

To establish your credibility,

to figure out how to deal with that questioner

in a powerful way, and believe me,

the rest of the audience would, you know,

if you get a harassing or a trolling question,

the rest of the audience is going to be on your side,

not on that person's side.

So sometimes it's very powerful

for you to find a way to keep them under control in Q & A,

or make it clear that what they're doing is unacceptable.

And that's certainly your right as well as a speaker.

I often encourage people to take the time

to look for a code of conduct

of the conferences you're speaking at,

where that kind of behavior should not be allowed,

and if you are moderating at such a conference,

you should be announcing the code of conduct,

or someone who's introducing you,

should be announcing that code of conduct

before you begin speaking,

just to make those rules perfectly clear to the room.

So I would advocate for you

to think about planning your Q & A,

and including in your plan,

two or three answers that you can have in your back pocket,

for that interruption that's

going to cause you trouble or pain,

and to figure out how you,

sometimes you can do it in a funny way,

sometimes you can do it in a more forceful way.

But if you've rehearsed ahead of time, a few answers,

you may want to do this with a partner or a friend,

figure out some things that you can say,

that would be a counter to that person.

I had a colleague who worked in an academic department,

and for about the first five years of her post

on this particular faculty,

a male colleague would come, sit in the back of the room,

and ask the very first question all the time.

My first question to her was,

why do you keep calling on him?

Right, so you do have some control

in terms of whom you indicate can ask a question,

but every single time he would begin to berate her,

in front of all of her colleagues, for leaving things out.

And of course, you're not up here to be an encyclopedia,

you're here to curate a particular

experience as the speaker.

But in her case,

it would just cause her to blush very deeply.

And we worked on some things that she could say to him,

and it turned out that he really showed up

so routinely to her talks,

and I know some of you may have had this experience,

you have your own personal troll, who shows up.

So I gave her a line that actually comes

from President Ronald Reagan, which is,

and I don't often quote him but,

during the debates with Jimmy Carter,

Jimmy Carter would make a point,

and very effectively, Ronald Reagan would shake his head,

with a big smile and say, there you go again.

There you go again.

And it would get a big laugh.

And what are you doing there?

Let's break that down,

so everybody understands what I'm talking about.

First of all, you're being non-anxious,

which is the role of the speaker,

and I know those of you who are anxious speakers

are thinking, how can I possibly be non-anxious,

but you need to at least appear non-anxious.

And using humor is one way to do that.

When you say, there you go again,

it's an acknowledgement that Fred or Jim

is doing this repeatedly, without you having to say,

Fred, you're always doing that to me repeatedly, right.

So you don't have to be that way.

And it signals the audience,

it's a way of connecting with the audience to say,

hey everybody, I know what's going on here, and so do you.

And that's why the audience laughs,

most audiences want the speaker

to be in control of the room,

they don't want the troll in the back

to be in control of the room.

So the audience will generally be with you

for that kind of experience, it's a great way to handle it.

When you're planning your presentation and your Q & A,

you also may want to consider a couple of novel ways

of handling Q & A.

One of those, would be to begin with questions,

before you ever do your presentation.

I recommend this a lot for situations

where you are speaking to an audience,

and you're not sure about the knowledge level in the room.

So that would be an audience where you have

lots of novices, as well as people with deep expertise,

and for most expert speakers,

that's a really challenging audience.

You can't make it simple enough for the novices,

and you don't want to bore the people

who have the same level of knowledge as you.

So the easiest way to solve that,

is to start with questions,

and I generally will say,

I'm going to start with about five minutes of questions,

so I'll take a few questions now,

if I can answer them easily, or quickly,

I'll do that right away,

if I can't answer them quickly,

I want you to come back and ask me at the,

again, at the end of the presentation.

And after about five minutes of questions,

you wrap up that Q & A,

and go into your presentation.

Now what does that do for you as a speaker?

It gives you a clue about who's in the room,

it gives you a sense of what you may need to add

to your presentation on the fly.

And then it releases some tension from the audience,

so if the audience is anxious,

about wanting to ask a particular question,

as many audience members are.

Many people come to your presentation

with questions in hand, that they want to ask,

it let's them do that, so it satisfies them.

You can also use this tactic really effectively,

if you think you're speaking to an audience that is angry,

for some reason, whatever reason that would be,

not necessarily at you, but about the topic.

So if it's a topic that people have strong feelings about,

sometimes you can let that emotion out at the beginning

by having three to five minutes of questions or comments.

And the launch into your presentation, right.

So you can think about doing that.

You also can consider planning a program

that's entirely Q & A,

I thought about that for this,

but I didn't think it would work as well.

And I've done many talks where,

if you are solid in your expertise,

and you know your topic very well,

sometimes it's great for the audience to be in charge of

which way the presentation will go.

You have to be ready to answer questions of all types,

in that presentation,

so it takes, you know, it takes less preparation for you,

in one sense, and in another sense,

it's all the preparation you've had in your entire career,

that comes out in a session like that.

Audiences really love all Q & A programs,

they don't get them enough,

so it's really an opportunity where

people come in and feel, wow, I really have a chance

to get my question answered,

and, you know, we're not going to be limited

to three minutes of questions at the end,

we have the entire hour for questions.

So that's actually a really effective way

to get audiences on your side.

So I think in all those ways,

you can plan for a traditional Q & A,

you can leave questions out that you anticipate happening,

to make sure that you get questions,

and you can also manage your questions,

you can plan an entire session of questions,

or you can start with questions.

So I think, I would encourage everyone to be

a little more creative with how you use questions

in your presentations and how you think about them.

And I want to talk a little bit about predicting questions,

because I really think you can do this,

and I think there are three kinds of questions,

that you can think about in advance.

And those are the questions you want,

the questions, because you all, you know you have questions,

you wish you would get, right.

Then there are the questions you expect,

and then everyone's favorite, the questions you fear,

or that you're anticipating with dread.

And I have a secret to tell you,

in all the time I've been coaching speakers,

which is about 30 years,

most people never get the questions they fear.

But they spend an enormous amount of time

thinking about then in advance.

And the downside is, they spend a lot less time

thinking about the questions they want,

or the questions they expect,

and then when they get the question that they want,

they don't know how to answer it,

or they don't have something ready.

And so they don't sound prepared,

but if it's a question you really want,

you want to be able to pounce on that question

and give a really great, really strong answer,

so I would encourage you to think about the nice questions,

the questions you want first.

And think about the questions that you're afraid of,

but don't let them overtake you,

in terms of creating anxiety before your presentation.

I think a lot of people overthink

that part of the presentation,

we're all really good at the

critical part of critical thinking.

So don't be too critical,

don't be too questioning of your questions,

and I think that will make a difference.

You know, I mentioned earlier,

your presentation really should not include

the questions you expect,

or answers to the questions you expect.

Some people also get themselves into an anxiety situation,

because they anticipate no questions,

and I've had this discussion back and forth

with readers of my blog, who will say,

what if I don't get any questions?

And the way I would normally answer that would be

to talk about planning and preparing ahead of time.

So I've done posts about that,

and then I'll get mail that says, no, really,

what if I don't get any questions?

So there are some people who spend

a lot of time anticipating everything that might go wrong,

and that's useful up to a point,

but if you don't get any questions, you know,

first of all, if you haven't planned your presentation

to leave some things out,

and you don't get any actual questions,

the crowd is just quiet.

The first thing you need to do is wait,

right, because just as it's tough for speakers to get up

and speak here at a lectern,

it's difficult for people to get up and say,

I have a question.

So you need to give them a little bit of time,

and if you wait and there is still no questions,

invite some questions with something specific.

So say, for example,

I'm wondering how many of you really take the time

to think about leaving out particular information

in your presentations, can I have a show of hands?

So you might want to take a poll of the room.

That might be an easier way for people

to take part in the conversation.

Or you may want to ask a more specific question

and get things going.

And if in fact, there really are no questions,

after you've done all of those things,

say, thank you so much, I'm going to be hanging around

in the hallway after the talk,

so if anyone wants to come see me,

please feel free to ask your question privately.

Please know, that there are a lot of people

who will never get up to ask you a question, right.

So 100% of your audience

is not going to raise their hands,

at any point in time.

There are a lot of people who are too introverted

to ask a question in front of others,

but they will come see you afterwards.

So it's not a fault,

but I would say you should aim to have questions,

you should hope to have questions,

and you should plan to have questions,

and that really makes a difference.

But I do think you can take

anticipating the questions too far,

I have a lot of clients who refer to practicing

their presentations, and they practice Q & A,

with colleagues, and they say,

we're going to have a murder board.

And I said, that's great, very pleasant, you know,

that's, that tells me you have the right attitude

about Q & A, not really.

So you want to think about it as a time when

you can be relaxed, be open to the question,

and show what you know,

and not necessarily spend all your time

anticipating a negative experience with your questions.

So let me talk now about problem solving,

because I think that's really the biggest part of Q & A,

for speakers, whether you're problem solving in advance,

and we've talked about a few ways to do that.

Or you're problem solving on the fly,

which is much more common for speakers.

I think one of the biggest problems for most speakers,

is that they fear or they worry,

that they have to be the expert on their topic.

So they have to be 100% knowledgeable

about 100% of the facts in the field,

and that's just not the case.

So we want you to be not the expert,

but we expect you to be an expert, right,

so I hope that takes some pressure off of you.

You know, you're sharing your own perspective,

which is unique, that's enough for most presentations.

We're not actually expecting you to be the encyclopedia.

I mentioned earlier that if you can develop a non-anxious

feeling within yourself, about questions, that's the best.

Because I think, too often,

the person receiving the questions,

ends up reacting to the content of the question,

or the emotion of the question.

And that's just really difficult,

your goal should be not to react to the question,

but to respond to the question, two different things.

In my world,

reacting to the question has a lot more emotion.

Responding to the question doesn't have much emotion at all.

So be a little more neutral

in the way that you handle the question,

and the way you think about the question.

You may hate the question, right,

you may despise the question,

or maybe the question you fear the most.

But the way you handle the answer

should be to simply respond to the question,

and not to make the question bigger or smaller

than what the person asks, okay.

When you're moderating the room for questions,

I also want to make a plea to everybody,

to think about gender and diversity

in your calling on audience members.

There are reams of stories about women being ignored,

when they have their hands up

to ask questions in audiences.

Cheryl Sandberg, the CEO of Facebook,

tells a story about this in one of her talks,

where a young woman came up to her after the talk,

and said, you know, I had my hand up the whole time,

and then you said, she said to Cheryl Sandberg,

and then you said, I'm only going to take one more question,

and you called on a guy, and then you called on another guy,

but I had already put my hand down.

And so that just woke her up to, you know,

I have to pay attention to

who I'm calling on in the audience.

So I think a great, there's a simple way to do this,

you can announce it, if you want to,

that would be a great thing for the people in your audience,

you can say, I'm going to call on a guy and a gal,

and a guy and a gal,

or a gal and guy, and a gal and a guy.

Or you don't have to say anything at all,

but just do it, right,

just make sure that you're being inclusive

when you're calling on different people.

And do call on people from all the way around the room,

one of the common complaints I hear from audiences,

is that the speaker only dealt with the people

in front of her or him.

So make sure you're looking at that person in the back row,

or on the side of the room as well.

Let's talk about some other kinds of problem solving,

so sometimes, you get a question, and it's very cryptic,

and it's not really clear where the speaker

of the question is going.

So it's totally fair for the speaker then,

to ask some questions of your own, right.

Tell me what you mean by that?

Tell me a little bit more about that question,

help me understand what it is you're really

trying to get at here.

Why to ask it in just that way?

And if you lead these open ended questions

back to the questioner, you're starting a conversation,

which is a great way to connect with an audience.

But you're also learning about what they really meant,

rather than jumping to a conclusion.

So it's really important as the speaker,

not to make too many assumptions

about the question you're getting, okay.

Again, if you have a non-anxious,

nonreactive stance to any question,

you should be welcoming of all questions,

and not feeling like you know what

the question is really about.

There's a wonderful new book out, by Frank Sesno,

who's a former CNN reporter,

and it's called Ask More.

And what I like about is,

he describes, he spent a lifetime

asking people questions for a living,

so he spends different chapters talking about

different types of questions.

And I really recommend it to people

who are going to be doing a lot of Q & A sessions,

because, I didn't personally realize or think about,

how many types of questions there are.

And some of these, he gives you,

you can use them in real life,

you can use them in personal relationships,

but I read the book with the filter of

looking what speakers can learn.

And I think it's useful,

because it just helps you understand,

there are some questions that are diagnostic,

there are some that are confrontational,

and they have different qualities to them.

So you can actually get good at

recognizing types of questions,

and then figuring out how you should answer them.

And he has a wonderful section in the back of the book

that actually takes each type of question,

and gives you examples of what they sound like,

so that you can recognize them.

No matter what type of question you're talking about,

confrontational, empathetic, diagnostic,

any of those things,

there actually is a formula for answering questions,

it's the simplest formula you will ever learn

in your whole career, guaranteed.

Here's the formula, it's three parts,

step one is to pause,

step two is to answer the question,

step three is to stop.

Step three is the hardest step, for any speaker,

and you know, often what happens,

and I think everybody has seen this

in presentations they've gone to,

you get a question, often the first question,

and the speaker is off to the races,

and talks about, you know, five,

10 minutes worth of answer,

when really all the person wanted was

maybe a yes or a no, right.

So you have to think about stopping,

and not making you answer a complete lecture

on whatever the person has asked.

This is also a really fantastic formula

if you're ever in a media interview,

and certainly if you're testifying before Congress

or the Legislature, it's really good,

pause, answer, stop,

don't go too far with that answer.

And think about, it's worth practicing,

because I think it's actually difficult to do in real time.

Another thing for you to think about problem solving,

and this is also good if you have questions

that you're not, where you think someone's

setting up a confrontation with you.

Try to remember, is this an actual question,

should there be a question mark at the end of it?

Or is it just a statement?

So, I'm sure none of you has ever

been to a presentation, I'm joking here,

where people got up, and in their questions,

never asked a question, but wanted to show you that

they know everything about the topic.

So that, "show what you know"

questioner, is lurking in every audience.

And this is group psychology, so I'm not making this up,

there's at least one person in every group,

who's going to say,

"I know something about that, and let me share."

And it may or may not be germane

to your topic, as the presenter, right,

it might be to one side of your point,

and it might be, have no relation to your point,

or your presentation.

And so what do you do with a question like that?

Most speakers get really annoyed,

and then they start having a debate with the person

who is trying to compete with them

for expertise acknowledgement.

Better would be, simply to let them have their say,

because they're going to have it anyhow,

and you can't, you really can't tell

who that person will be, unless you know them.

And a better way for you to handle it would be,

to listen to them, and acknowledge and thank them,

and say, thank you, that's a very useful perspective,

next question, (laughs), right.

So sometimes, if the person's going on quite a bit,

and they're giving us a small lecture in lieu of a question,

you can stop them, and use the kind of tactic

that you hear on talk radio,

which is when the host says,

is there a question? Do you have a question?

Right, so it's a question to ask your questioner,

to call, you know, in effect, call the question,

and get them to ask a question.

And sometimes, they will then have a question,

and other times, they'll simply say no,

I just wanted to make that point.

And you say, well, thank you so much for sharing that,

next question, right.

Does anyone have a question,

to indicate that what you're looking for are questions.

So when you're moderating a group,

that's another good tool to have in your back pocket.

The other thing I'll say,

and this goes back to people who decide to

exclude Q & A from their presentations

for whatever reason,

often times I work with people who eventually tell me

that they feel that the questions are like a threat to them,

or they feel that any question is a threat to them.

And I think it's so useful if you can avoid

thinking of questions that way,

you know, not all questions are a threat.

Sometimes, you know, let's think about,

what the reasons are people ask questions,

they just don't know.

They may have no knowledge in your area,

and they're going to ask a question

that really doesn't make a lot of sense.

They may have a lot of knowledge in your area,

and they just want to share it, right,

or they want to disagree with you,

and they're entitled to do that.

You don't have to agree with your questioner,

you know, so the point of questions is

not to wrestle the speaker to the ground

and make you cry for help.

You know, your questioner is allowed to have an opinion,

and you're allowed to have your opinion as well.

The last kind of problem solving I want to talk about,

is the one that really bedevils speakers,

I think, the most, and that's,

getting a question to which the only correct answer is,

I don't know, right.

Many, many speakers fear this question,

even if it's their business not to know

the answer to that question, they fear that question.

To be honest, I don't know why "I don't know"

is such a problem, really.

Because we can't know everything, right,

so hopefully we all understand that.

So I've come up with some ways

for you to think about saying, I don't know,

because you're going to have to, at some point,

say "I don't know" in relation to a question.

So you want to think about a two-part construction,

take a novel way, and I'll give you a couple in a minute,

a novel way to say "I don't know"

in a way that's funny, or interesting,

or that helps you make a point,

and bridge it into why you don't know.

So don't just say, I don't know,

explain why you don't know,

because that context may be useful.

So some of the ways that I like to say "I don't know"

and I have six or eight of them,

my very favorite is, I wish I knew that.

I wish I knew that, right.

And it needs to be genuine, right,

so if someone says, what's the secret to buying

a winning lottery ticket?

You know you wish you knew that, don't you,

right, so say it.

Or you could say, you could make it more plaintive,

and say, you know, if only I knew that.

Or if you want to be funny,

and it's a really good idea, right,

think of some elusive solution in tech,

that nobody has come up with yet.

You can say, "if I knew that, I'd be a billionaire", right.

And you know, you need to mean it,

it needs to suit the topic.

You also can say, who knows?

You know, I'm not sure anybody

knows the answer to that question.

In technology, and science and engineering,

sometimes it's appropriate for you to use this as a lesson,

and say, you know,

that's just one of the many things we don't know about x,

whatever your topic is.

And then tell us, what are some of the things we don't know

about the topic you have, just so that people understand,

that you're not being a know it all, standing up here.

You could do a very simple,

"I don't know, and here's why I don't know."

Or, "wouldn't it be nice to know that?"

But I'm not sure we're ever going to know that,

and explain again, if you're going to say,

I'm not sure we're ever going to know something,

be sure you explain why you think that is,

because not everyone in audience may know.

And I love to use a solution that Gloria Steinem uses

when she speaks to audiences,

because it's the perfect kind of crowdsourcing

for speakers to do.

Instead of being the expert, and answering a question,

and very often she's getting questions from people

about very specific personal experiences

that they've had, she'll say,

"I don't know, but maybe someone else here does."

Who has an answer for this?

And what she has written is that,

she looks at Q & A as a problem-solving by the group.

So it's perfectly fair game for you, as the expert,

not to be the expert, and to say, "you know,

we have a lot talented people in this room,

I'm curious as to what they would say,

an answer to this question that she has just posed."

That's a really graceful way for you to moderate the room,

it takes the pressure off you as the expert in question,

and it lets you bring other people into the conversation.

I think the last problem-solving, again,

is one where you have to prepare yourself mentally,

there are an awful lot of people I know

who are presenting as junior professionals

in front of very senior people.

And they say, "but they all know more than me,

I can't give this talk, I can't do Q & A,

because they all know more than me,

and they're going to ask me really hard questions,

I don't know the answers to."

And I think, the way to think about it is,

again, no one has your perspective, right,

so your perspective is valid.

And you don't have, you're not trying to match wits

with the audience,

you're trying to share your unique perspective.

And if someone doesn't have that perspective,

that's okay, you have to be ready to deal with that.

So those are, you know, again,

planning, predicting your questions, and problem solving,

whether you do it in advance or on the fly.

That's my formula for Q & A.

And now, I'd love to hear some questions,

whether I have answers or not.

[Michael]- Well thank you very much, Denise.

First, I'd like to ask the room

if we have any questions inside the commons.

Okay, we'll take it to the Etherpad.

One question you were just addressing, came in,

"is it good to pass the question to the audience,

if I do not know the answer?"

I think you addressed this quite well,

but building upon that,

are there any special considerations,

if you were to pass the audience back to the question,

or excuse me, pass the question back to the audience?

[Denise]- I think you just have to assume that,

maybe no one in the audience knows either, right.

And then it's an opportunity to say, okay,

so it's clear that all these bright minds

don't know the answer to this,

there's a challenge for all of us to address going forward.

Right, and then, next question, right,

you can always call for the next question.

But I think it also is a generous thing

for a speaker to do, to include the audience,

because you never know who's sitting in your audience,

most of the time.

[Michael]- Great, thank you.

Another question that we had come in,

"how do you like to measure audience satisfaction,

when you're answering a question from an attendee,

in terms of whether or not it was properly addressed?"

[Denise] - Right, so sometimes,

and I certainly had this experience myself as a speaker,

you answer the question with the wrong answer,

and it's not wrong because it's not factual,

it's not the question they were asking,

you misunderstood the question, right.

So you may answer a question,

and the person will come back and say,

"no, what I really meant was this."

That's an invitation for you to pause,

and ask some more questions

before you jump in and answer again, right.

So that's a signal that, guess what,

you didn't quite get it right on the first try,

work with me, the audience member.

It may be that there is no answer to their question,

that may be frustrating to them, right.

It's hard to control for audience satisfaction, right,

there's no way to do that.

But I think if you're honest,

and you give them a process where they feel

as if they've been heard,

your satisfaction and your rating as a speaker

are going to go up.

[Michael] - Absolutely.

Thank you.


- Hi.

- Hi.

[Potch]- Something I've always had trouble with

when giving presentations is,

gauging whether I spoke over the audience's head,

or way under their feet,

making sure that they understood, you know, things.

Is there a, do you feel,

or do you know how to let the Q & A,

like how to almost influence a Q & A session

to give you an impression of whether you met

the sort of knowledge of the room,

or enhanced the knowledge of the room,

or if they all glazed over, kind of stuff.

[Denise] - Right, well you know,

some of them won't want to tell you, right...

Among other things, one solution for,

if you know it's that kind of room in advance,

I would start with some Q & A, even a little bit,

even a little bit, because the people who have

urgent questions will want to get them out early, right.

So that's where you can find the super expert,

and the novice, right.

And you'll find people who'll put their hand up and say,

"well, I don't know as much as he does,

but I just really want to know

how you get started doing this, right."

Then you know you have some novices,

and then you're going to bifurcate your answers,

or your presentation points throughout the presentation.

If you haven't done Q & A in advance,

and you're really looking for some feedback,

you might start the Q & A by saying,

now, I've given this talk in this way,

I've been aiming for people who do this,

but if you're more junior or more senior,

and you want to have a more in depth

or more basic discussion, now's the time,

let me have your questions, right.

So don't be afraid to kind of

be the impresario of the Q & A,

and say, "I've spoken about this,

but you may think this, or you may think this,

I'm happy to take all levels of questions."

I think that's a really thoughtful thing to do.

[Potch] Thank you.

- Hi.

- Hi.

- You have said a few times about starting with questions,

[Denise] - Mm hmm.

[Attendee] - In the beginning,

so when you start with questions,

and you don't get the participation

that you were wanting, how do you move from there?

[Denise]- All you have to do,

so I use it for very specific,

I don't do it all the time.

I use it for very, very specific situations,

often when I don't know who's in the audience,

when I know very little about the audience,

or, if I'm talking about a topic,

you know, I'm sometimes asked to come

talk about social media,

and many times, with a large group,

it's impossible for the organizers to tell me

the level of expertise.

And I find with a topic like that,

you get a lot of novices,

and you get a lot of people with a lot of expertise.

And so it's very difficult to figure out

how to plan a talk for those two audiences,

so that's when I would use, open with questions,

but if you get no questions,

whether it's at the beginning or at the end,

you want to wait, right.

And then you can say, okay, great,

I'll get started with my presentation,

and perhaps some more questions will occur to you.

Let me begin.

Alright, so you're almost introducing yourself,

and letting yourself go into the presentation,

that's really all you have to do.

If there are no questions at the beginning,

that's not a problem, people will,

questions will occur to people during you talk,

I guarantee it.

You know there are really a couple kinds

of audience members,

some come with a list of questions

that they want to ask right away,

and some people want to hear what you have to say,

and then formulate their question, or their reaction,

to what you want to say.

- And just very specific, for a question,

when you want to, you know,

you want to start your presentation,

with a question to engage the audience.

You know, in particular.

- You mean ask them questions?

- Yes.

- Yeah, okay.

- So and, so is that the same approach,

to just leave it aside and move to your presentation.

[Denise] - Yes, it's very common, it's almost too common

for people to say, let me take a poll, right.

Let me ask for everybody, for a show of hands.

But it's okay, audiences are used to that, right,

so we've conditioned audiences that

there may be some forms of limited, you know, participation.

And so it's entirely possible for you to ask first,

ask for some questions, ask some questions of the audience,

if no one responds, you can make a joke.

You know, have a joke ready, to say,

obviously, you're all hiding your opinions from me,

and that's okay, let me begin my talk, right.

So as long as you're comfortable with it,

we'll be comfortable with it, right,

even if it seems like it should be awkward,

you get to be the gracious host, and say,

great, no questions, let me go ahead and start.

[Havi]- I've got one from the Etherpad,

so Srushtika would like know

how to deal with questioners whose

sole purpose is to criticize the technology

that you are presenting about?

So what if the questioner does not

want to buy the answer that you can provide?

Even it it's correct, and makes sense?

[Denise] - Right, that's okay, right,

they're entitled to their opinion,

you know, you don't have to--

Q & A is not something you can win, right.

It's not a competition,

even if your questioner is treating it like a competition,

you don't have to play, right.

So it's entirely possible for you to answer

the question and if they say,

I still don't like your product,

say, thank you so much for your feedback,

next question, right.

Move on to another question,

you don't have to continue

to wrestle with that person, right.

And frankly, the rest of your audience

will thank you if you don't.

So, you know, don't,

I see a lot of speakers who somehow think,

oh, I have to amend my position,

or I have to change what I'm saying,

because they're upset with me,

but no, you don't, right,

and often you can't.

[Havi]- So another one from the Etherpad,

this one's from Gloria, who asks,

what do we do if we pass on a question to the audience,

and someone gives an answer that is incorrect,

or based in a misconception?

[Denise]- That happens to me all the time,

I just want you to know.

Because there is a lot of mythology

about what's good to do as a public speaker,

and so, one of the things that's useful to do,

that I myself don't always do,

is try not to let your face give away what you're thinking,

right, during that time,

and the best way to do that is to smile, right.

A smile is great, it's very neutral, it's very neutral,

you're listening, you're listening,

and then you say something like this,

thank you so much Fred, for sharing your perspective,

I have to disagree, in my experience,

speakers should do this, da, da, da, da, da, da.

Next question, right.

So don't be afraid to move it on.

Don't be afraid to disagree,

this is a, it's not consensus that you're trying to build,

it's conversation you're trying to have.

So Fred, whoever Fred is, can have his perspective,

and you can have yours, and by the way,

you have the microphone, right.

So, take it from there.

[Michael]- Daniele asks,

"what do you think of incorporating

an asking questions slide at the end of your presentation,

with a few examples?"

So I'm not a fan of,

slides that say things like questions,

or here are questions, or it's time for questions,

or anything like that.

I think it's fine just for you to say,

and now I'm ready to take your questions.

I don't know that any audience would use

questions that were suggested by the speaker,

I'm not sure I would either, right.

People really want to be able to ask their own questions,

whatever those may be.

So I'm not sure that, that would be as successful.

Sometimes speakers have actually said to me,

I know what I'll do, I'll plant three friends of mine

in the audience and get them to ask really

thoughtful questions that I want to answer.

And here's the problem with that,

we can tell, right.

So try not to fake it, right, try not to fake it.

It's much more electric and interesting, and connecting,

to let people ask the real questions that they have.

[Michael]- Great advice, thank you very much.

Do we have any other questions inside the room?

[Havi]- I've got one. One more from the Etherpad,

from Manel, and she wants to know,

this is a little bit like a nuance of an earlier question,

but let's go for it.

How to you know if you answered well to a question,

when you feel like the person

isn't satisfied with your answer?

Where to take it from there?

[Denise]- So you mean they're kind of fidgeting,

or looking at you funny, or they're giving you

some kind of physical cue that they're not happy,

as opposed to just arguing with you?

[Havi]- Sounds good.

- Yeah, okay.

[Denise] - Okay.

- So, if you sense some discomfort,

be aware that your perception of what's happening

in the mind of that person may just be your perception.

Right, so again, I would say,

never assume that you know what people are thinking,

until they tell you, right.

That would be step one.

So you could say, does that answer your question?

That's a nice, neutral thing to say.

You finish answering, right, pause, answer, stop,

and then say, did that answer your question?

And they will say, "actually, no it didn't,

I really wish you'd talk about such and so, right.

Or I disagree completely with your approach to x."

And say, "thank you, that's really useful feedback for me.

You know, that's my opinion, and I'm sticking with it,

and it's good to know that you disagree.

Next question, right."

So you can acknowledge, without agreeing,

and you can thank people for contributing to the discussion,

you're not thanking them

because you agree with their opinion,

you're just thanking them for participating.

And what are doing when you do that?

You're giving a signal to the rest of the audience

that it's okay to ask a contrary question,

and that you're going to

handle them politely and professionally,

as opposed to getting in a fist fight with them, right.

[Michael]- Could you give us a couple of quick examples

of how to interject to regain control of a conversation?

If somebody is perhaps speaking a little too long?

[Denise]- So every speaker and every moderator,

I also write a blog about moderating panels,


and that's the, you know, the devil in the details

for the panel moderator, among others,

is the longwinded off-topic question that doesn't end.

Or it seems like it, right.

And so again, I refer you to,

I think it's a wonderful practice

for people who are handling questions,

to listen to journalists who are good at asking questions,

and listen to moderators,

so you might watch Meet the Press, or Face the Nation,

where they're moderating a panel of journalists,

sometimes, to see how they do it.

Or, if you prefer, talk radio,

because talk radio hosts have been doing this for decades.

And so on talk radio, you'll often hear a radio host say,

"do you have a question, in the middle of a long answer,

that's really kind of a sermon on the topic.

Is there a question?

Do you have a question?"

To get them to formulate a question.

If they're just making a long observation,

you can say, "thank you so much for sharing that,

I want to make sure we have time for other people,

who have questions," right,

so that other people will ask questions, right.

So you can suggest to the audience,

what you would like them to do.

On BBC Woman's Hour, which is a podcast I listen to a lot,

it's a great, great show,

one of the hosts, Jane Garvey,

was just interviewing a politician, a member of Parliament,

who, I think, thought her question was

an invitation to give a speech,

like a really long one.

And so, she sort of let him go on for a bit,

and she then politely jumped in,

because she knew his name, she said his name, she said,

you know, "Mr. Jones," and he said,

"well, I'm not finished."

And she said, "won't you then?"



[Denise] Right, so that's a clever way to get it in there,

you know, the thing is that,

the rest of the audience, keep in mind that,

the rest of the audience,

who is not giving you that long-winded question,

also would like this person to wrap it up,

so they have a chance to ask.

So keep in mind the entire room

when you're handling people like this, right.

And you can say, "can you wrap it up,

can you get to the questions?,

because I know we have a lot of people waiting,"

and you look at the room,

and you'll see a lot of people doing this, right,

in acknowledgement.

[Michael] - It looks like we have one final question,

coming in from IRC, Alex asks,

what's your favorite first question

for when you open with a five minute Q & A session?

[Denise]- What's my favorite first question?

Well it really depends on the topic,

but I actually love getting someone

who asks a question that I can answer quickly,

in that situation.

Because people do come with different kinds of things,

there is the long-winded question, of course,

but some people really just have a quick,

short question, they just want a quick, short answer to.

It's a wonderful way to kick that off,

it's harder, I think,

if you start with a question that's really complicated,

that you can't answer in real time,

and you have to put the person off.

But you can, in that situation,

say, I'm going to, that's such a good question,

I need to leave that until later,

because it's a big part of my presentation, right.

So, and then go to it.

[Michael]- Well, it looks like that's all of our questions for today,

Denise, I thank you very much for making time

to come and speak with us here at Mountain View.

[Denise]- My pleasure.

- Absolutely.

- Thanks everyone.


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