Answering tough questions

By Shirley Downie, Rotary public image coordinator, Zone 20A (South)

How many different audiences have you encountered during your Rotary career? It’s probably countless! You have probably fielded 100s of questions.

When dealing with the different audiences, you can personalize your responses by considering some of the following guidelines:

  • Define the situation – Do extensive research beforehand on events and programmes. Ask these five questions to get at the motivation of your audience–who, what, when, why, and where?
  • Establish and share the objectives: Confirm the goals, aims and achievements. Outline new objectives specifically and make sure they are measurable, achievable and attainable.
  • Identify the target audience: When you embark on any event or programme, identify the type of audience you are talking to. Are they internal, such as other Rotarians, Rotaractors, etc.? Or are they external such as media, government, etc.? Draw up a list of everyone that could be involved in the event/programme. Depending on who is addressing you, think carefully about your response – repeat the question to ensure you have understood it and once you have responded, ask if they are happy with the answer.
  • Create a specific message: Once you have identified your different audiences, think about the most common questions likely to be raised. Surprise your audience by responding to a frequently asked question in a unique way. Use creative angles when responding and avoid the same old standard response. Consider including specific information. For example, if you are addressing the media, include quotations and photos and highlight Rotary’s amazing achievements – such as Polio eradication – for the press article.
  • Explain how: Outline how the project or initiative will proceed. Include the estimated timeframes.
  • Include amounts: Tough questions frequently ask about money or funds. Include the budget where applicable and acknowledge where the funds have come from or who they are going to.
  • Talk about evaluation: Include the evaluation strategy. How many people will benefit? What tools are you using to measure the outcomes? Is it sustainable? Were the objectives met?

For easy reference, remember the acronym DOTMABE:


Good luck with your question and answer sessions!


2 thoughts on “Answering tough questions

  1. Thank you for sharing these notes Shirley. Your explanation at the Institute drew us all in without taking notes but this helps the memory after a time period away.

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