Q&A etiquette.

Ok, whenever I do a Q&A, I always start by saying “Ok guys, remember it’s a question and answer section, and questions have a question mark.  Also, please try not to monologue since other people want to ask questions as well.  If you abuse the rules I’m going to cut you off.”

Most speakers don’t do this.  So the word needs to get out about how to not make the speaker and the rest of the audience silently loathe you.

1.  Questions have a question mark.

If you’re going to ask a question, ask a question.  This is not your time to lecture the audience.  Also don’t lecture the audience and then ask some weak, scarcely related question at the end in order to justify getting a hold of the microphone so you can grace the audience with your comment.  We know what you’re doing and it’s not clever.

2.  Wait to be recognized. 

If you just start speaking in a loud voice without being called on, it’s tantamount to cutting in line.  Nobody will believe that you’re just oblivious the fact that everybody else in the audience is raising their hand and waiting to be called on.  They’ll think you’re just being an asshole.

3. Keep it to one question.

If you don’t like the answer you get, tough.  Don’t start a ten-minute long debate when others are waiting to ask questions.  What you can do is hold your hand up again and then ask a follow up when others have had their chance.

There are always people in the audience who monopolize the Q&A over and over again in this way, and the audience always begins to groan when they get close to the mic.  Don’t be those people.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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