Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How to Deal with a Loaded Question

When I review our meetings clients proposed questionnaire (their list of questions to be asked at the event), I often ask if a particular question is intended to be “loaded”. Sometimes I get a blank look and sometimes an impish smile of acknowledgement. Here is an explanation of what a loaded question is, and a better way to subtly help guide the audience to a conclusion.

A loaded question is one that already contains something that makes the question itself fallacious. The best example is an attorney asking “Have you stopped beating your wife?” The obvious problem is the assumption that you do beat your wife. There is no way to answer it without admitting the assumption that you do beat your wife. The only way to get out of the trap is to not play the game by making a counter statement “I have never beaten my wife.”

The epiphany for most of the attendees at community Town Halls where there is a racial divide is that everyone wants the same things. As strange as it seems, that is a surprise. They all basically want safer streets, better schools, etc. That sounds like it would be a given, except it really isn’t.

At meetings and in research, this type of question is often much more subtle. Sometimes it is actually unintentionally based on the authors own unwitting bias. For example “How much do you like our new advertising campaign?” presupposes liking it. The real question is “Do you like our new campaign? The follow-up question is “If you like the campaign, how much do you like it?” Or, perhaps “Why do you like it?”

A more honest approach is to present a series of questions that walk the audience through a thought process. Those questions might have them explore ideas that they may not have previously considered. It would allow them to reach a more informed and thoughtful conclusion.

Everyone—the community, the groups and the individuals within it are forced discover and own their opinion. The visceral connection made by press the ARS voting button and the result being projected creates ownership of their responses. This, plus the conversion of verbal language to visual language ends any doubt about the truth. The visualization creates unthreatening change and automatic buy-in.

As an added bonus, the anonymity of using an audience response system is its anonymity. It allows the individual to see how they fit into the overall group’s opinion without having their individual opinion known by the group.


With over 30 years of experience in helping clients achieve their meetings goals. I am passionate about the power of insight. If I can help your firm discover this power, please contact me.

Alan Warshaw
President
Quick Tally® Interactive Systems, Inc.
Direct Dial: 310.306.4930


About Me

After graduating from New York University with a degree in Communications, Alan attended the New School for Social Research, Graduate School at N.Y.U. and the Master’s Program in Cinema at U.C.L.A. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Alan was employed by Doyle, Dane and Burnbach Advertising Agency. He worked in the U.S. and Europe in the feature motion picture production business. He was employed by Quick Tally Interactive Systems for one year prior to acquiring the company. He has owned and run the company for almost three decades and has pioneered in the manufacturing of ARS equipment and providing interactive event services. In addition to US State and Federal Government Agencies, America's leading companies, associations and television networks, he has also worked for events clients in the EU, New Zealand, Hong Kong Thailand and Dubai.