I’ve seen this several times, most recently today. A speaker in a public forum is taking questions. A hand is raised. The speaker keeps on speaking, or handles other questions, but one particular hand does not get acknowledged. The person asking tries once, twice, three times (but with less gusto each time). And then they give up.The message? I don’t want your question. Or it’s not as important as what I say, or even what others say. The problem here is that I know for a fact that the presenter did not intend to ignore the hand. It was a case of bad timing, bad eyesight, and preoccupied thoughts. But unfortunately, the message to the listener is the same.Whenever we take questions from the audience, we must go above and beyond to be attentive to where they might come from. It’s never a bad idea to have a spotter to run interference for the speaker, to help get them seen and acknowledged. The potential danger for not acknowledging them is an alienated audience member, or worse. It’s never a bad idea to reiterate the rules for asking questions (the person today missed the opening statements and thus might have felt she was doing something against protocol. As speakers, we get tied up with our own thoughts and just can’t see everything (despite what your mother said, eyes are not available in the back of heads). It takes extra diligence to keep tabs on everyone, especially as the audience size grows.
Make sure that you give the audience your attention, and give them ways to get your attention.