Monday, May 4, 2009

how to listen to audience questions

On the Power Presentations blog, Jerry Weissman offers this thoughtful lesson you can cull from President Obama's recent prime-time news conference: How to listen to audience questions. In the world of fielding questions and answers, we often focus too much on what we want to say and not enough on the question. Not so the president. When asked a multi-part question --“During these first 100 days, what has surprised you the most about this office, enchanted you the most about serving in this office, humbled you the most and troubled you the most?” -- Weissman notes that Obama:
...immediately reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a pen and said, “Let me write this down,” producing a wave of laughter from the crowd gathered in the East Room of the White House...[he] carefully listened to the question, confirmed that he had listened by restating what he heard, and then re-confirmed by writing what he heard, sending a clear message of his attentiveness.
That kind of attention, as Weissman notes, sends a powerful, confident message to your audience, adding considerably to your credibility as a speaker--and means you'll do a better job actually answering the question. Similar to my favorite time-buying phrases to use when you don't know what to say, the technique also gives you time to think about your answer.