Get more from talks by asking the right questions

What is the secret to getting the most out of talks? Getting involved at talks. Just by changing from a listener to an engager, you will instantly get more out of events you attend.

But, how to become an engager?

Ask questions.

Here’s how to ask them, the best way:

Prepare questions in advance

Read the description of the session you’re attending ahead of time, and learn background info on your speaker.

Doing this will allow you to come up with questions that suit the speaker’s knowledge, your interests, and likely the interests of the session’s audience.

Got a list of pre-event questions? Great, now leave some room for expansion.

Write down new questions as they come to you

Chances are, as your speaker talks, new questions will come up. Add these to your list, in a separate section. We’ll come back to this separate section later.

Now that you’ve got questions to ask, it’s time to ask them. But wait! There is a good time to ask them, and it’s probably not now.

Ask your questions at the end

Most speakers include time at the end of their talk for questions. This is the best time to ask them! Although speakers will often say it’s okay to interrupt them at any time to ask questions, doing so will likely throw them off-course, meaning you may not get the best answer you could’ve hoped for.

So, save your questions for the end. But, should you ask all of your questions? Probably not, at least not all at once.

Prioritize which questions to ask when

Look through your list of questions. It’s likely that many of the ones you prepared ahead of time do not fit in with the subject matter discussed. This is okay. Save these questions to ask at another time, perhaps privately in the halls or over email.

So which questions do you ask during this question period?

Ask the questions everyone in the room can take something away from the answer of. These are the questions of immediate value, and more likely than not are the ones that you wrote down on that list from earlier.

Why do this?

By asking only questions which are relevant to the content delivered, you avoid wasting the time of the speaker and audience spent answering and listening to a question which likely doesn’t apply to them.

There you have it. A simple trick which you can use to get even more out of your talk-listening experience.

By asking the right questions at the right time, you as well as everyone else in the room will enjoy the event that much more.

So go, ask your best questions. You’ll be making everybody’s time more valuable.

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