…then shut up and let others have a chance.
I was at a delightful one-man storytelling event at the Tempe History Museum the other night. The performer adopted a variety of costumes and facial devices as he related historical commentaries on the parade of Native American tribal customs from the past thousand or so years – Hohokam, Atzlan, Yaqui and Pima to name a few. The Hohokam (“those who are gone”) are considered to be the builders of the original canal system around the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Zarco Guerrero did a great job of keeping the tales lively and brief and after about 40 minutes the crowd of 50 or so enthusiastic attendees of many ethnic backgrounds was invited to ask questions or give comments.
One woman in the front row was quick to raise her hand and was recognized by the moderator. Her comment, about the Pima tribe’s long-staple cotton, was rather detailed and took a couple minutes to explain. Zarco acknowledged the excellent information with good grace and we were ready for more questions.
Three or four people were recognized by the moderator around the room, each offering a quick question or comment.
And then…and then…our first row lady struck again. From my spot at the end of the second row I could see her hand going up, but I could also see seven or eight hands throughout the room.
Alas, the moderator recognized her again and she launched into a second 4-5-minute commentary.
Now, I’ve seen this kind of thing at several different casual public meetings and always wondered at the self-centeredness of people seated toward the front who think they can just keep asking questions. They don’t look around to see who else is trying to get attention. And almost as bad, the lecturer doesn’t either. Even worse is when there’s a moderator or host who doesn’t scan the room, especially the middle and back areas.
So my rule is: You get to ask one question, with maybe a brief follow-up for clarification. Then you get to shut up for a while.
Look around the room. If no hands are raised, go ahead and ask another question. Then, after five or ten minutes you can jump back in…
…or be prepared for a good old-fashioned Salt River dunking.