Learn from the Questions

Posted on by Rachel in advent speaker tips.

Shaping new material around those questions has been the way I’ve created my most successful presentations.

After a talk I often get a bunch of questions. Sometimes they are part of a formal Q&A after the talk, or come from people chasing me down afterwards, or even from Twitter or other social media.

The questions are a goldmine. I make sure to keep a log of them because time and again, shaping new material around those questions has been the way I’ve created my most successful presentations.

If I’m going to be giving the talk again, the questions help me improve it. If I thought I made a certain point, but more than one person in the audience then asked a question about that very thing it tells me I need to be clearer. Maybe make the point in a different way, or add another example to help strengthen it.

There may be questions that were inspired by the presentation, but on a slightly different subject, or further step. These questions are useful for future talks that I might write.

There may be a lot of interest and questions around one particular point. Even if they are very specific to the asker, and their situation, it demonstrates that a lot of people are keen to know about that particular thing. Perhaps I could write a very focused talk covering just that aspect?

As someone who speaks about technical subjects, the questions help me learn about the challenges people face around the technology I talk about. They often come from different technical backgrounds, or work in very different companies to the ones I am used to working with. So, while praise for a great presentation is always very nice, and makes me feel good for a while, what I’m really looking for are more questions.

Advent speaker tips: this is part of a series of tips for public speakers that we’re posting throughout advent. Check back daily during December for more.

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