Convention tip #15: The quick guide to Q&As

Everyone loves a Q&A, but here are a few thing we’ve picked up over the years.

The key, the big uno, the biggest thing you should do: Keep it snappy. The more succinct your question is, the more time the panelists have to answer it. Andrew: “Know what your question is ahead of time, and don’t ramble.” Bethany: “One question. Not a three part question, no follow ups. Numero uno is the way to go.” Nancy: “Have a second question in mind in case someone ahead of you asks your first question,” and “Avoid “yes/no” questions.”

Plenty more beneath the cut!

  • Remember, the panel is not about you. Neither should your ‘question.’ A quick “Mr/Ms X, I love your work, thank you for coming” before your question is fine. But save the rants/squee/epic screed for your friends or your blog, because there are other people in line to ask something too.
  • Do your research. Check an author’s Facebook page or web site – or google some interviews – so you can be aware of the common questions. Bryan: “Don’t ask a question that’s been asked a hundred times elsewhere or about a rumour that’s been debunked.” For instance, Tim Zahn has said plenty of times how he found out/felt about Mara’s death. Bonus, maybe your research will lead you to a further question to ask!
  • Make sure your question is relevant to the panelists. Last year, for some of us bloggers at Dragon*Con, the “video game question” quickly became a bit of an in-joke, because the EU panelists at that con had nothing to do with video games. If you must ask about games at an EU-focused panel, save it for someone like Leland Chee or Drew Karpyshyn, who have actually worked on/dealt with the implications of games on the wider EU.

That said, everyone has a first con. We’ll forgive you. Probably.

  • But still, don’t be a jerk. You can ask about something you don’t like and still be polite. Try and spin it in a positive direction: “A lot of people seem displeased with X. What was the biggest lesson you learned from the experience?” is a far better question than “I hate X, it ruined Star Wars forever. What the frak were you thinking?”
  • Stoogey: “Even with a mic, speak loudly and clearly. Rehearse it in your head, say it and move on. You don’t get a follow-up.”
  • And, on that note… Nancy: “Don’t try to grab the microphone from the microphone-handling minion.”
  • James: “While you can identify yourself (and your background/affiliation) briefly, don’t use your question to self-promote/advertise.” Or? Just leave it out entirely. If you want to introduce yourself to the pros, try doing it at their booth or one of the big parties instead. (Not while they’re at lunch, or in the hallways, as they may have a panel to get to.) They’ll still be ‘on’ but likely will have more time to chat – and you won’t annoy the audience by wasting their time.
  • Be cautious with the personal questions. “What book/author inspired you the most,” is one thing, but don’t ask them review your art/writing, or hug them or to date/marry you. Respect their boundaries! And don’t ask for a job, either! Even if you’re joking, you know damn well that’s not how it works.
  • And, of course, always “send children to ask the most probing questions of Filoni,” Bryan says. On your own head be it.

We have one more set of tips to go, so tune in tomorrow for the wrap-up and free-for-all!

4 thoughts on “Convention tip #15: The quick guide to Q&As

  1. Caitlin

    I also suggest staying away from the “what was your favorite…?” phrasing. I’ve seen lots of panelists suddenly become completely incapable of answering a seemingly simple question, because they’re running through things in their head trying to pick their very favorite. Phrasings like “What was a memorable episode for you?” instead of “What was your favorite episode to make?” can unlock some great stories.

  2. jawajames

    following up on the subject of being “on topic”:

    some standard things that Star Wars authors usually don’t have much input into or information about:
    – cover art selections (talk to publisher)
    – retail price of the book (talk to publisher)
    – audio book versions (talk to audiobooks division)
    – foreign translations (talk to ???)
    – meeting George Lucas (talk to George Lucas)

  3. Ozzel

    Yeah, I’m not a fan of the “favorite” questions, because they usually just result in the “like picking my favorite child” answer.

  4. Brian

    Definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY do not argue with whoever you’re asking the question to. Nothing is ruder than asking your question and then trying to spend 10 minutes debating the answer because they didn’t say what you wanted to hear. It’s rude to the panelists, and to the other people in line waiting to ask questions.

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