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Asking and answering tough questions – how the professionals do it


Do you like watching two skilled tennis players competing?

Patrick Condren

I enjoy watching the tennis. I also enjoy watching skilled journalists and politicians “battling it out” in an interview.

Here are a couple of communication tricks we can all learn from – from an exchange between an experienced politician, Cameron Dick – and experienced media veteran, Patrick Condren, during the recent Queensland election coverage.

Patrick: asks very directly:

Cameron, do you want to be Premier? – a direct serve 🙂

Cameron: gives the standard “return” response that doesn’t answer the question.

I’m very happy being the member for Woodridge.

Patrick: pressing further knowing Cameron is avoiding answering the question:

OK – rule it out. Say no.

Cameron: (another standard political response) It’s not a night for that sort of discussion.

Patrick: (still keeping the pressure on) Of course it’s a night for that sort of discussion.

Patrick panel

Then, Patrick’s fellow panelists take the heat off Cameron – by launching into a side discussion about how the Labor leader would have to be Premier.

My points are:

1. People asking questions need to listen as to whether a question has ben answered and if the question has not been answered, they need to press further.

Things like: So is that a YES or a NO?


You haven’t answered the question

2. People answering questions need to anticipate possible questions and practise out loud how they can respond to questions.

I’m often called in to help people (business people and even politicians) on how to prepare for answering questions – in front of the media OR in live business presentations.

While it’s essential to practise how you will answer questions – nothing beats actual experience being asked questions and then reviewing what you did well and what you could do better.

TB Lateline

Another good example of two professionals asking and answering questions is an exchange between Mark McCombe v Christine Tan

Mark shows another great response to when a reporter tries to pin him down:

Tan: “So that’s a NO?” .

Mr. McCombe doesn’t let the NO suggestion stand as the last impression of that answer.

McCombe: You can interpret that however you want to interpret it.

You can use this type of reply too that “puts the ball back in their court”

So, if you ask or answer questions as part of your job, you need to improve your skills and:

1. be aware of the many “moves”.

2. watch skilled professionals in action.

3. practice your “moves”

4. Get some “real experience” asking or answering questions

5. review and improve your performance


TB Media mosaic

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:
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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.

Linked In – under Tony Biancotti
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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.



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