Press "Enter" to skip to content

What NOT to Ask: Consider these rules the next time a person of importance visits the campus.

Shauna Simeone / The Recorder

Recently, CCSU was lucky enough to be graced by the presence of one of CNN’s lead anchors, Anderson Cooper, here on campus. He emphasized that he wanted his speech to be more of a dialogue, so he left plenty of time for questions from the audience. For the people who were chosen to ask questions, this was probably the only time in their lives that they would have a chance to speak directly with him. Surprisingly, many of the questions asked by audience members were ridiculous or irrelevant. I have compiled a list of things that people should not do when they get to ask a famous person one special question.

 No long political diatribes

One particular audience member at the Anderson Cooper event decided to give a mini-speech on the fact that Henry Kissinger was a war criminal. The actual question he asked was lost in the midst of it all, and it ended up being a wasted stretch of speech. In 99 percent of the cases, any one-minute speech that you make to these speakers is not going to change their minds, so stop trying. 

No long-winded praises

It is understandable that you are excited to meet these people, and going on about how great they are may flatter their ego, but other people in the audience would like to hear some kind of thoughtful answer from them. Therefore you need to start asking a thoughtful question at least somewhere in the mix.

No irrelevant questions

Prominent speakers may be experts in certain fields, but this does not make them qualified to give advice in every area of life. For example, Cooper heard a sad story about a woman who has been unemployed for a while and wanted some advice. Cooper responded with something along the lines of, “I don’t know what to tell you. Keep working hard”.

Again, what made you think that Cooper would have some brilliant advice on how to help you find a job? Try and keep your questions relevant to the speaker’s expertise, so they can possibly give a legitimate answer.

No “gotcha” questions

Occasionally you will come across an audience member who has uncovered an obscure and unknown fact that contradicts something that the speaker has said. They proceed to tell the fact and then say something like “how do you explain that?!”. Honestly, give these speakers a break. They have to answer on the spot in front of a large group of people. They probably don’t feel like getting into a heated debate to prove you wrong or argue with you. You can guarantee that these types of questions always bring along an awkward moment for everyone.

No abnormally long questions

There is one in every audience; that one person who loves to hear themselves talk. In these cases, the questions never seem to turn out as well as expected. Either, the point of the question was lost somewhere along the way, or the whole 45-second prelude to the question was completely irrelevant and a waste of time for everyone listening. Please, save some time for other people. Just get to the point and everyone will be happy.

Hopefully, the next time the CCSU community and hundreds of fascinated local residents face the opportunity to speak to someone of stature, be it the President of the United States or one of your personal idols, you keep in mind these points of advice. Asking a good question can really help add to a memorable moment.