The IAITAM ACE session is wrapping up and you, a dutiful attendee, have listened closely and taken notes. You know what the speaker is going to say next:

“Are there any questions?”

Like so many things, there’s an art to being on the “question” side of the Q&A. It deserves some thought not just because you’re speaking in public, or because you want to learn more, but because you want be respectful to the speaker and the rest of the audience. So, there are some tricks. They’re not complicated—not required—but they’re worth keeping in mind!

This is how to ace the ACE Q&As:

  1. Speak up first! Sometimes there’s silence after the request for questions. We all know what that pause feels like: awkward, uncomfortable, 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—before the conference, even—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 he or she isn’t. 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 and that you’re grateful, and that will make 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, “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 talk 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: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/six-conference-questions-every-academic-hears/2006738.article

Nine steps! Most are normal social interactions and common courtesies. However, some require extra thought. Put some 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 8-10 in Orlando, Florida!