Beware the Machine Gun Question

You might remember The Iraq War Enquiry earlier this year here in the UK.  Odd that it’s seemed to have died down somewhat. Someone who did come out smelling of roses was our very own Tony Blair.

He presented himself well, gave an assured performance, wriggled a bit when asked to recall what he said to TV presenter Fern Britton but answered the questions well. He was well planned as you would expect from a man of his calibre.

One of the reasons he did well was the general poor quality of questions used by the panel.  The question type that caused them most problems was the machine gun question.

Time after time, they hit Tony with machine gun questions which rattled off two or three questions with one pull of the trigger and what did Tony do?  Took his time and answered the last question in the string, which was usually the easiest question to answer.

And that’s what people do, they can’t remember the first one or second or even the third question, they only recall and answer the last one. And those lovely questions earlier are wasted.

On analysis, the first question in the machine gun string, was the better quality question, but was lost in the mist.

The panel wasted so many questions that might have made Tony wriggle some more, but they chose machine gun ones instead.

In selling, we ask questions, in coaching we ask questions, so we’re missing a trick if we get caught by this one. So if you find yourself stringing questions along in a machine gun way, stop, pick a really good question and ask it.  Stop and wait for the reply.

If only the panel facing Tony Blair had done that, who knows what the outcome would have been.