One of the best parts of conferences is how people in an audience can ask experts questions. It’s an amazing opportunity because you get to interact with someone you might never talk to outside of this event. Because of this rare moment, some people get nervous or anxious as they wait to share their question. It can be a lot of pressure to stand up in front of a large group of strangers and directly address an expert in your field. I know many people who blank out when they’re called on or who get out of breath after sharing a few sentences.
That’s why I wanted to share a few techniques that can help you feel more comfortable sharing your voice and asking questions:
Tip One: Breathe
When you’re “holding” a question in your head people feel they have to “pause” and they end up holding their breath as they wait for their turn. Then they go from shallow breathing to feeling vulnerable as they share an idea. This can cause your anxiety to spike. If you’re in line or waiting for the microphone, keep breathing and engaging in the discussion as the speaker addresses other people’s questions. If you’re worried about forgetting what you want to ask, write it down. That way you can engage in the dialogue and be comfortable when it’s your turn.
Tip Two: Practice the transition from your name to the question
Depending on the event, some people want to introduce themselves before asking a question. Once someone’s shared their name it can be hard to smoothly transition to the question. That’s often when people blank out. They don’t know what comes next. So if you’re going to share your name, think of the next phrase you’ll say so you can go from the introduction to confidently sharing your comment.
Tip Three: Begin with the comment that sparked the question
Many people worry about how to start a question. They know the core of it, but the exact phrase to begin with can be daunting. That’s when I recommend starting with what comment sparked your question. For example, “As you shared this data, I got curious about…” Then your question has a direct link to the presentation or panel discussion and feels organic to bring up.
Being able to ask experts questions is a wonderful opportunity that few people have. That’s why you want to feel comfortable taking advantage of these events so you can share your ideas and get feedback. If you get nervous, practice these tips so you can feel more confident at your next event.
Bri McWhorter is the Founder and CEO of Activate to Captivate.