THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 18, Spring 2000

William A. McEachern, Editor

Any Questions?

Three rules for a successful presentation are (1) have something good to say, (2) say it well, and (3) get feedback. Questions are the most immediate and most interactive form of feedback. While people without a clue sometimes stumble into asking a brilliant question, a la Chance the Gardener in the movie Being There, you can usually judge both your ability as a speaker and the listener's ability to get the message by the quality of the questions.

Good questions are like gold, and we must be inviting and non-threatening in eliciting them. I was at a conference recently where a speaker warned that, since he had time to entertain only one question, the questioner should be sure that it was the most important one that could be asked. I don't know what the speaker was thinking, but that pose was a real turnoff. As if to put the speaker in his place, the one question asked was for directions to the restrooms.

What should you think when there are no questions? That you have been perfectly clear? It could be you were so unclear that listeners could not establish enough of a toehold to ask a question. Or perhaps they just tuned you out - they were thinking mostly about lunch. As has been noted in this newsletter, in the face of no questions in class, you should ask students questions along the way to see how you both are doing.

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