Don’t Know the Answer? Put it in a “Parking Lot”

[COMMUNICATE]  Years ago one of our writers was asked to jump in at the last minute and present a live training to a group on a topic where she didn’t feel 100% prepared.

She was worried someone would ask a question and she wouldn’t have the answer.

Then she was told about the “Parking Lot” technique — which gave her the tool she needed to feel confident walking into the presentation.

What is the “Parking Lot” technique?

Let’s say you’re conducting a meeting or giving a presentation. Someone asks you a question… and you don’t have an answer for them.

You could respond, “Great question, Sue, but I don’t know the answer.”

That reply could diminish your authority and may make Sue feel frustrated and not heard.

A Better Approach

Or, you could respond, “Great question, Sue. I don’t know the answer off-hand, but I’m going to write it on the board (or flipchart) so we don’t lose sight of it, and I’ll get back to you with the answer.”

This response softens the fact that you don’t have the answer and makes Sue feel like her question is important enough to take the time to follow up.

You then create a “Parking Lot” space on a flip chart or whiteboard for any questions/topics you will research and follow-up on with all of your participants. You name it a parking lot and refer to it as such.

Two Important Points

First, it’s important that the “parking lot” list is visible to everyone in the room (or virtual session) rather than just writing the item down on a piece of paper. This is because seeing you write it down goes a long way in developing trust.

Second, you must follow-up on the list so that your colleagues will know you’re a person of your word.

By the way, a parking lot list is also a technique that is effective in meetings when non-agenda items or questions are brought up that could take your meeting off track.

2018-07-23T11:37:13+00:00July 23rd, 2018|

One Comment

  1. Monroe 2 BOCES Member September 25, 2018 at 11:59 am

    Thank you! Great idea! Terri Parsons

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