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This Isn’t A Second Grade Classroom, There Is Such A Thing As A Stupid Question

By on February 21, 2017

Today I need to throw some tough love at you and discuss this nonsense idea that there is no such thing as a stupid question.

We’ve all heard the saying that there’s no such thing as a stupid question and I understand the sentiment in certain settings where you want people to feel comfortable and be open with any doubts or concerns they have; in a classroom setting, for example. However, I hate to break it to you, people, but there definitely is such a thing as a stupid question and it’s all about context and what that question says about who is asking it.

As someone who works in the entrepreneurship support space, I attend a lot of conferences, workshops, panel discussions, and the like and the vast majority of them leave time at the end for the audience to ask questions. It always pains me at how often audience members are willing to stand up and ask completely inappropriate questions in this setting and seem utterly unaware that they’re actually killing their chances of moving their businesses forward with anyone in the room.

Again, I’m going to stay focused on public events with experts and investors and not discuss the classroom here. Any of my nextLEVEL students, please know that this post is absolutely not directed at you, it’s directed at attendees of conferences, workshops, and panel discussions. That said, at these types of public events, there are stupid questions and they mainly fall into two categories: the Googleable question and the inappropriate pitch.

Let’s take the inappropriate pitch first because that’s quicker as most people don’t do this. If you go to a workshop or a panel discussion led by investors and you would like to have a conversation with them about investing in your venture, the Q&A portion of the event is NOT the appropriate time to launch into your pitch and ask them if they’ll invest in you.

Firstly, that’s disrespectful of the time of everyone else in the audience and it’s not cute. They don’t want to sit there and listen to you ask for money. Secondly, there is no way an investor will be able to get enough info from you in one minute, which is the absolute max time you should be speaking, to be able to tell you anything helpful. If you want to connect with the speakers, ask an insightful question so they see and hear you and then go up to them after the session ends and introduce yourself. Will you invest in my business is not an insightful question.

The other type of stupid question is the Googleable question. For the most part, when experts and investors come to speak at these types of events they’re doing it because they want to support and give back but answering questions that could easily be answered by the internet doesn’t make them feel like it was a valuable use of their time. The CEO of the top co-working and incubator space here in Chicago noted that back in the day, ignorance was about a lack of access to knowledge and it could be cured. Today, with the ubiquitous access to an endless amount of information at our fingertips, ignorance is really an indicator of or proxy for laziness and laziness can’t be easily cured. Laziness isn’t something that makes someone want to mentor you or invest in your company. So when you come to these events, if you want to ask a question, please make sure it’s something that could only be answered by this person in this moment and is not something that you could have just Googled on your smartphone while you were waiting for the moderator to call on you and give you a mic.

Building a business is all about relationships and the impressions that you make on people so, I know this may sound harsh, but please be aware when you’re out and about that every single thing you do – including the questions you ask – affects how people perceive you so be careful that you’re not inadvertently asking stupid questions that make you seem lazy and ignorant.


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Guest Post: Achieve Your Milestones If You Want to Raise Money

By on February 14, 2017

It’s guest post week again. Today we’ll hear from Ian Dawkins of Blue Anchor SEO: Starting your own business with little more than a great idea and a lot of determination is something that has always been a big dream

What to Do with the Dogs in Your BCG Matrix

By on February 6, 2017

Today I want to dig up and add a little bit more to an old video I did on the BCG Matrix. Before continuing, if you don’t know what the BCG Matrix is, please take a look at the old

Guest Post: 20 Tips to Skyrocket Your Small Business Branding

By on January 31, 2017

It’s guest post week again. Today we have some advice from Jessica Bowler of Printsome on how to boost your branding. Here’s Jessica:  What small business wouldn’t like a major branding boost? Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who

How to Understand Your Goals So You Can Build the Business You Want

By on January 24, 2017

Today I want to revisit a video I did awhile ago about using the 5 whys technique to help with your operations management but twist it a bit to talk about making sure your goals and business strategy are in

Guest Post: 5 Reasons Startups Fails and How Yours Can Succeed

By on January 17, 2017

It’s guest post week again. Today we’re hearing from Delan Cooper of Consolidated Insurance Brokers who will give some advice about avoiding failure and finding success as you build your business. Here’s Delan: The startup failure rate is as high

If Your Customers Are All Jerks; You Might Be The Jerk and Not Realize It

By on January 10, 2017

Today I have a quick little PSA for all you business owners out there that always seem to find yourselves dealing with horrible suppliers, obnoxious customers, and difficult teams. It’s the start of a new year (hello, 2017…you really came

Guest Post: 5 Things Startups Should Know About HR

By on January 4, 2017

Holy crap, it’s 2017! I’ll be back with a new original post next week but it’s a guest poster for this week – HAris Quintana with 5 Things Startups Should Know About HR: Anyone who is in the process of

Guest Post: 7 Steps to Developing Good Habits That Will Help You Succeed as an Entrepreneur

By on December 20, 2016

It’s guest post day again. This one is from Jenny Smith and gives you some tips to develop the helpful habits you’ll need to succeed as a business owner. Starting a business is not an easy thing to do. However,

Best Gifts for Entrepreneurs 2016

By on December 13, 2016

I’m a bit late with the list this year but here’s my annual roundup of the top gifts for the entrepreneur in your life. Maybe there are some procrastinators out there who haven’t yet completed their holiday shopping. Full disclosure,