How to answer questions

Sign from my presentation at the Muzeo

Handling special cases

Before telling people how to answer questions, I covered a few special cases when you might not want to give an answer.

Understand the question

If you do know the answer and want to give it, the first thing to do is to make sure you understand the question. And the first step is to make sure you’ve listened to the whole question. Think about game shows where the contestant buzzes in an answer before the host finishes, but is wrong because the clue is in the second half of the question.

Be brief

In Toastmasters, a table topics speech lasts one to two minutes. In most situations, we may only have a few seconds to get our idea across, especially if we’re talking to a busy executive or cranky children. A good skill to develop is the elevator speech. Can you get your idea across in the time it takes for a quick elevator ride?

Be honest

We need to tell the truth, which might not be what the listener wants to hear. When we fail to do this, we undermine our credibility and cause ourselves greater trouble when the truth comes out later.

Answering questions effectively makes you more valuable

When you answer questions effectively and honestly, people can depend on you. They know you’ll tell the truth, and you won’t waste their time. They are interested in what you have to say. You can get your ideas across. They will listen to you because they know you’ve listened to them.

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