Useful & Useless Questions

You’ve probably been there.

Your Zoom meeting started 10 mins late because key participants had issues connecting. You prepared a killer presentation flow and timed it- you still kind of have enough time.

You start off and your audience is more active than the usual. Woohoo, great!

Charts are on point, slides are sleek. You’re acing it. And you remember to stop every few minutes to keep the presentation interactive: “Any other questions before we proceed?”

Yes. There are questions. The tech team suddenly starts bombarding you with very techy and niche-y questions. Well you want to be nice so you answer them- which gets even more off-topic questions coming.

Before you know it your key participants- VP Customer Service and VP Marketing are totally disengaged, one of them even apologizes and leaves early “an urgent call came in”. Ugh.

You have 10 mins left and you didn’t even get to the juiciest parts of your message, you’re out of focus and out of breath.

Does this sound like anything that happened to you?

If so, I’m not surprised. Even the most adept presenters and executives out there sometimes lose control over the meeting because of niche topics that arise. They try to please everyone and that’s exactly the problem. You need to take care of your own pre-defined, clear goal and be aware of audience traps. A rain of niche questions that serve a small portion of your crowd is a trap.

Let me explain- there are two types of questions that can arise in a business meeting you’re leading:

  • A useful question – A question that touches on an important central aspect of your talk, data and claims. By answering a good question not only you will be able to tackle an important information gap or concern a participant has but also, it will benefit other key participants and help deliver your main message.
  • A useless question – A question that doesn’t serve your goal, tackles a less insignificant niche of your presentation and interests a minority portion of your non-essential audience. 

You can’t please everyone all the time- embrace this and work towards your goal. When you get a question- stop and think: is this a useful or a useless question?

If it’s useful- marvelous go ahead.

If it’s useless and can wait- answer the question on a very high level (a few words max) and say the following, warmly and confidently: “just being mindful of the time limit we have today, sorry, I’d really love to provide you with a good detailed answer on this- would it be ok if I followed up via email right after this call or we scheduled a separate meeting on this?”

Boom. Don’t feel bad about doing this- your audience will benefit more from a structured and thought-out flow. Take control, own your meeting.


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