I recently gave a keynote for the IM World conference in Bucharest. Firstly, I want to say thanks to the organisers. It was a wonderfully organised event. Anyone organising a conference needs to take note from how they treat their speakers. They have organised a diverse event with a great range of speakers and subjects.
I had been looking forward to the talk before the event, a great opportunity to connect with an audience and chat about my experiences over the last few years. Although there was one part of that I was looking forward to the most, the Q&A session.
Now I know some speakers dread that part of their talk. I know of some speakers that purposefully make their talk longer so there isn’t any time left for Q&A. To those speakers, I say I understand but you are missing a trick.
The Q&A section is understandably daunting from one POV. You’re on stage and are at the mercy of your audience. They can ask you absolutely anything, things that you know could reveal areas of ignorance. You’re scared that you won’t be able to maintain this image of being all-knowing about your chosen subject. I completely understand this mindset, but I am going to tell you why you’re wrong.
First off, you’re not all-knowing!
I don’t care who you are, absolutely none of us are all-knowing.
Accept it and revel in the fact!
Not being all-knowing is a good thing. It means it’s fine to not know something, it means you can answer a question by saying I don’t know. It means you can answer a question by saying,
‘I hadn’t thought about that, but thank you, that’s a great question for me to investigate.’
I knew before my Q&A session that I would be asked questions about things I had never thought about. But I also knew that anyone who asked me questions would be aiding me. When you can think of your audience’s questions as an aid rather than an hindrance, that’s when you can level-up!
Instead of fearing the questions, you realise that they give you material. From the questions I was asked after my last talk, I’ve gained 3 topics for blog articles. I made no effort to get that material, I was already doing my talk so that’s a bonus to me.
The above can also be tied into classic Sociology, where researchers realised that using a qualitative approach to research bears answers to questions that the researcher would never have thought to ask.
Being open to what people say instead of fearing it will benefit you in ways you haven’t even thought of yet. It will even get you steps closer to being all-knowing, not that you’ll ever get there but it’s worth a go right 😉