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Giving Insightful Answers to Questions:
Learning to Get People to Listen

Giving Insightful Answers to Questions

Many people think they’re good at answering audience questions, but often their answers to these questions fall flat. We’re here to change that.

You have great ideas. But do people listen when you speak?

Being able to answer questions effectively requires you to think on your feet. You must demonstrate knowledge, but there’s more to it.

Capturing the attention of an audience requires more than knowledge and a witty response. There’s an art to getting people to listen to what you have to say.

Following a few simple techniques can help you win over any audience, regardless of the question. Here’s how to do it.

Brevity and Clarity

In our quest to impress, we tend to overexplain our answers. In most situations, when someone asks a question they aren’t looking for an in-depth explanation or analysis.

Sometimes a one-word answer or a simple yes or no will suffice. The goal is to answer the question, gain trust, and build relationships with others.

Keep your words concise to make the greatest impact. Don’t volunteer extra information or expand on a new idea if they asked a simple question.

The Funnel Response

How do you answer questions? Do you tend to ramble on rather than getting straight to the point? If so, you aren’t alone.

Many people respond in a funnel. They hear a question and start broad. They begin to explain, give data, and fill their response with content before finally working their way through the funnel to answer the question.

That means a simple response may last much longer than it needs to. When you do this, you lose your audience. They may get tired of listening to you or walk away with the idea that you don’t have the answer.

You don’t want to lose your audience. Instead, you want to capture their attention, get to the point, and earn their trust.

Flip the Funnel

Many people hear a question and want to offer a full explanation, which isn’t always necessary. They get nervous and talk and talk, working their way through a funnel.

You can change this bad habit by flipping the funnel. Now, it becomes a pyramid instead. This is the ABC Model, which stands for Answer, Bridge, and Content.

Remember, your first duty is to answer the question. Your audience wants an answer, not a lecture or a dissertation on the subject at hand.

The Answer

If you want someone to listen, try answering in 1, 2, or 3 sentences at the most. And, if your sentences consist of 22 words or less, even better!

Why should you keep your sentences short?

  • They’re easier to understand.
  • They’re easier to remember.
  • They’re more accessible to a diverse audience.

A great answer is one word. When that doesn’t work, keep your words brief, get to the point, and answer the question.

The Bridge

The bridge takes us from the answer to the content and helps you briefly explain your answer. The bridge should be 11 words or less.

You can offer your answer and transition to the bridge with a phrase like because or let me explain. A bridge helps you indicate what has been and allows you to move to what will be.

The Art of Transition

Just as in life, not every answer is black and white. People are emotional creatures, and some answers are more provocative or controversial than others.

Some answers need a little finesse, and that’s where the art of transition comes into play. Adding bridge transitions such as unfortunately, sadly, or let me explain to the beginning of your thought can soften the blow.

There’s no need to wander through a controversial response. One sentence is great. Two sentences are good. And three sentences are okay.

Brevity is the goal here.

The Content

The content is the explanation or data that supports your answer. This is where you make your case.

People lose interest if you go into too much detail, lecture them, or drone on and on to make your point. The goal is to hold their attention, gain their confidence, and foster relationships.

If you annoy your audience, this goal is lost. As you relay your content, there’s a sweet spot to remember. You have around 30 seconds from where you began your bridge to now share your content.

During this time, there’s a good chance you have the attention of your audience, and they’re listening to what you have to say. No matter how interesting you may be or how many stories you have to share, you’ll lose them if you ramble on beyond this timeframe.

Building Relationships

You may not consider that the way you answer questions has an effect on the relationships you build. But it plays a major part in how others see you and respond to you.

In business, respect is key in forging relationships with employees, colleagues, and business associates. The way you respond demonstrates your knowledge of a topic and your respect for your audience.

Answering questions using these simple strategies can help you build and maintain relationships in your workplace or industry.

Listen More

Whether you’re answering a question or speaking to someone, take the time to listen.

When you’re nervous or in a hurry, your first instinct may be to interrupt and answer the question quickly. This is a bad habit and a common nervous response.

Jumping in while someone is speaking makes them feel like you’re ignoring them and know more than they do. And that’s not a good look.

Show Respect

Everyone around you is striving for acceptance. While you may want to show your expertise in your answer, you must first demonstrate respect for those around you.

Listen to them and let them finish what they have to say or ask. Say thank you when appropriate and be confident but measured in your response.

Stay Calm

In stressful situations, many people talk too fast, stumble over their words, and even giggle at inappropriate times. Letting your nerves get the best of you can make a poor first impression and ruin your chances of making the deal, getting the job, or impressing the team.

You want your speech to be natural and your answers to be effective. Remember to be yourself and remain calm so you can demonstrate expertise and creativity in your responses.

Answer Questions Like A Pro

Whether you have to speak before a crowd, answer questions, or deal with a colleague one-on-one, it’s important to make a favourable impression as you answer questions. Following the ABC Model can help you win the admiration and respect of your audience in any situation.

We help professionals like you learn to communicate in an effective and authentic way every day. We’d love to see how we can help you and your business with your communication goals. Contact us today to learn more.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash