Friday, September 28, 2007

And the answer is ...

Previously I've talked about how a speaker can encourage audience members to ask questions. Of course, every question deserves an answer and that includes questions one might consider challenging.

Every time I hear a speaker side-step a question I think of Chester Burger, the original media consultant. He advised the largest corporations, including the Bell System where I attended his management seminars in the mid-70s.

Burger's instruction on how to handle difficult questions from audiences or news reporters (especially reporters) was simple:

Don't answer them -- at least not directly. Instead of an answer give a positive-sounding statement that reinforces a point you want to make. Be brief, especially for the electronic media where the punchy soundbite reigns supreme.

If the interrogator persists, Burger counselled, go on -- and on and on -- with your answer, making it obscure and dry. Above all, never repeat any provocative terms from the question.

Thanks to the profession of communications management that Chester Burger founded, answers to questions are less often answers than they are talking points.


I have a question: Did you hear about the Japanese musicians who set the record for the world's longest concert, playing 184 hours non-stop?

Download that, you file-sharers!

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