So there you are at the IAITAM ACE with the session wrapping up and you have listened closely and taken ample notes. You know what the speaker is going to say next:

“Are there any questions?”

Careful now, there’s an art to being on the “question” side of the Q&A. The next words that you speak deserve serious consideration. Not just because you’re speaking in public or because you want to learn more, you also want be respectful to the speaker and to the rest of the audience. You are poised on the brink of gleaning further useful information from the speaker with your questions, or possibly asking questions that are ineffective with little gained by anyone.  The following suggestions are meant to enhance most any Q&A period. They’re not complicated, and they are not required—but they are worth keeping in mind!

Use these suggestions as a means to “ace” the ACE Q&As:

  1. Speak up first! Sometimes there’s a silence after the request for questions. We all know what that pause feels like. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and heavy. Is everyone too nervous? Are there really no questions? Who will speak up first? Be that person!
  2. Write your questions down beforehand. Before the presentation—possibly even before the conference—write down every question you have about ITAM. Maybe you have five, or maybe you have dozens! Cross those questions off as you hear the answers and if, at the end of the session, one or two haven’t been answered, then ask them during the Q&A.
  3. Write more questions down during the presentation. Take notes on what the speaker is saying and also on what was not covered that you want to hear more about. Writing down your question will help you sound much more professional and articulate when you speak.
  4. Say only one or two sentences. Ask your question without rambling on by condensing it to a single sentence. A second sentence is appropriate only if your question needs some sort of context such as a reminder of what the speaker already said. For example, “You mentioned x in your presentation. Could you elaborate on the consequences of not doing x?”
  5. Speak loudly and clearly. Talk so that everyone in the room can hear you. You don’t want the speaker to waste precious Q&A minutes by repeating your question.
  6. Thank the speaker. This step isn’t mandatory, but it is a social grace worth remembering. Thank the speaker for their presentation before you ask your question. This lets the speaker know that you were paying attention, which makes him or her even more receptive to your question.
  7. Ask open-ended questions. Encourage the presenter to speak more on the subject by avoiding questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead of asking, “Is ITAM important?” ask instead: “In what ways is ITAM important?”
  8. Stay on topic. Focus only on what the speaker covered that day. If you have a question about a previous presentation of theirs or some other area of discussion the rest of the audience won’t care to know about, then talk about it later.
  9. Save debates for a face-to-face conversation. If you disagree with what the speaker said, or think you know more about the subject than he or she does, don’t use the Q&A time to have your debate. Recognize that the presenter put a lot of time and energy into his or her presentation and that it would be inappropriate to negate everything, especially in front of the rest of the audience. Avoid the “display of superior knowledge” tactic like Allan Johnson covers in his article ‘Six Conference Questions Every Academic Hears’ on TimesHigherEducation.com

Nine steps! Most are normal social interactions and common courtesies. Some however, require extra thought. Put that extra thought into your questions just like the speaker put extra thought into his or her presentation!

We’ll see you at IAITAM ACE, the biggest and best ITAM conference in the world! Join us May 22-24 in San Diego, California!