Monday, March 28, 2011

The ABC's of Trade Shows and Conferences - Q is for Questions (#eventprofs)

When you attend a convention or other business event you will find yourself attending many speeches, panel discussions, product announcements and other presentations.  Inevitably as the time comes to an end they will ask for questions for the audience.  Pay attention, as this can be a pivotal opportunity for you to maximize your participation at the conference.

"Are there any questions?" are four words that can be the kiss of death for any presentation.  The pause that can occur after these words leave the stage can kill the mood of the whole room.  Nobody likes that awkward silence.... neither the speaker, nor those in the chairs, find any joy in good vibes being sucked out of the room.

The audience has an obligation to the presenters to not let them fall flat (unless they sucked... but that is a whole different discussion).  There are often dozens of people in any audience who want to ask questions, but for their own reasons are never the first to raise their hand.  However once one or two people have inquired the speaker, it is often the end of time that stops the Q&A portion.  Help get the ball rolling by asking the first question!

When you ask an intelligent question that gets the speakers to elaborate on their message, you are noticed by all in the room.  The speaker is grateful for the opportunity to go deeper (and not have dead air in the auditorium), and the audience appreciates the insight of the questioner.  Often when you ask good questions following a presentation, others will come up to you during breaks and compliment you on asking the same question they were thinking.  It can position you as a smart and active member of the crowd, and allow you to have side conversations on meaningful topics.

But beware, you must to be careful not to abuse the power of asking questions.  We have all seen the person who rushes the microphone at every conference (and often ever session they attend) only to give a commercial for their company and add their own point of view to mix.  They are not sincere, and are considered obnoxious.

Sometimes people who compete with the speakers, have differing opinions to the presenters, or otherwise have an axe to grind will use this opportunity to get on a soap box of their own.  This rarely makes the person asking the question appear in a good light.  Even if you disagree with what was said in the main presentation, remember to be respectful in how you address those on stage.  Being a jerk or a bully never builds your reputation.

This does not mean you need to remain silent if you disagree with the validity information.  It just means that when asking questions you must make sure not to put the spotlight on yourself.  Keep the conversation focused on the topic, not the personalities and brands.  Remember that the person was selected to make a presentation, and that brings with it an expectation of expertise.  Honor them in your choice of words even when asking about other viewpoints.

While listening to a presentation constantly ask yourself if there is anything worthy of asking a follow up question.  If you genuinely have something to ask that will benefit the speaker and the audience, do not hesitate.  Everyone wins when you step up and ask questions.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.

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