How Not To Ask A Question At A Conference #Blogher11

I’m halfway home from Blogher, stuck in a frigid airport in El Paso. I attempted to curl up in a corner and pass out, but my teeth were chattering, so I’m forced to stay warm by paying to surf the internet.

(The way to a blogger’s heart is through free wifi. Between having to pay for it and the torture of being stuck inside a f-ing walk-in freezer disguised as an airport, complete with no accessible exits to the sunny and clearly very warm atmosphere outside taunting me through these giant windows in front of uncomfortable seats that are impossible to fall asleep in, El Paso and I are barely on speaking terms.)

Since I’ve got the child-free time, and I’m forced to keep typing to encourage circulation to my frostbitten fingers, I thought I’d take a minute to jot a note down about how one should ask a question at a conference.

Or… maybe just how NOT to ask a question. Yes, let’s go with that.

Here’s how NOT to ask a question at a conference:

“Hi everyone! My name is (name) and I blog at (blog). Uhhhhmmmmm….. so…… when I was 5, I always dreamed of becoming a writer. And so I wrote and wrote and wrote in my diary. And one year I took my diary to camp and I fell in love with the boy I thought I was going to marry, EXCEPT we never did, but he was really cute. And I like to write about cute guys now. I got married to someone else and we have 3 kids. My youngest is starting Kindergarten this fall! Isn’t it crazy how fast they grow? I volunteer for the PTA now and we just started a blog. You should follow us. I just posted my best rice krispy treat recipe on it. So, anyway…. hum… my question is… hahahah… I think I forgot. Hold on… my question is…. oh! Yes. My question is (insert actual question here.)”

1. If you start out your question by taking us back in time 25 years, you are doing it wrong.
2. If you begin to list the ages of all your children when your actual question has nothing to do with your children or their ages, you are doing it wrong.
3. If your question would not fit in one tweet, you’re (probably) doing it wrong.

Listen, I get it. It’s nerve wracking to stand up and ask a question sometimes, especially if it’s your bloggy idol on the panel who’s listening to you. I’m a rambler. I go on and on and on when I get nervous. Silence makes me uncomfortable. So before I rise to ask a question (after working hard to get the attention of the mic wrangler and panelists with my half-raised-don’t-want-to-look-over-eager-but-please-please-pick-me hand) I formulate the question in my head. Then? I edit it and delete all references to that one time at band camp.

I encourage you all to do the same next time, too. Time is short and questions are a plenty at things like this. Let your fellow conference attendees have a chance to ask theirs by keeping yours brief. Besides, there is plenty of time to corner your idol at one of the parties (or even better, the elevator!) and tell them that really funny story you know they’ll just love.

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  1. Word!

    P.S. I’m sad we didn’t connect, but take comfort in knowing that I was you from afar, dancing like a champ in an attempt to win a Blue Nintendo at the CG Party. Didn’t get a chance to say hi, but ya looked awesome. 🙂

    • I am so sad our paths didn’t cross!! It was so freaking crazy this year. I danced my ass off for that thing. At least I won a smurf.

  2. hey there – I’m new…was just turned on to your blog by one of my (extremely organic and wholesome) friends…so honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect…

    but I gotta tell you, – – – I love your stuff!!

    You are a great writer and you are extremely funny!

    BlogHer sounds like a dream come true to me…I only hope someday I can go!

    I’ll be following you from my little corner of the blogosphere:)

  3. 1. How did el paso get their airport so cold? I can’t keep my house that cold in dfw.
    2. Love your blog! I’ve been reading it for a little while after my sister sent me a link to you of your posts. Your hilarious. Are you this funny in person?

  4. HAH. So, what you’re saying is, I should prepare all questions for next year in the form of a vlog and just push play in front of the mic for next year?


  5. Oye. I’ve never been to BlogHer but this has been an issue at some conferences I’ve attended and it bugs the snot out of me. Be succinct, and if you’re very nervous and/or have limited experience speaking in front of groups, write your question down.

  6. Something I do with important voicemails I need to leave, or questions I need to ask in public, is write them down first. I think most people are better editors than they are writers, and can find the lines to cut easily when they’re not winging the first draft out loud.

    Love the blog – have a great day!

  7. Point taken. Like others, I can sometimes get nervous in front of a crowd. Hopefully, I’m not as bad as some of those scenarios. Thanks for the advice to keep us all on track.

  8. Yes, it was a problem. I was also shocked by all the, “My name is BLAH BLAH from BLAHBLAHBLAHDON” where I write about BLAH BLAH (insert totally unrelated question)” I mean I get that it’s important to say your name and site, but there’s a certain tactfulness to it that makes it not so… spammy. In several sessions I got the impression that people had only asked those very weak questions in order to announce who they were to the room. Tacky.

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