Recently I heard a host open his podcast conversation with this question: “how did you go from working on Wall Street to becoming a professional miniature golfer?”
This is a low-velocity question. It can be argued that this question is going in a direction, but it will not get there anytime soon. In effect the host is asking for his guest to tell the story of his entire professional journey. Depending on the detail the guest wants to use in telling that story, the entire conversation could contain this one question only. Paradoxically, the host initially might be pleased because he is getting his guest to talk, but in reality he has lost control of the conversation. When it will be his turn to ask another question remains unknown.
The question above is not a bad question. It invites the guest into the conversation with very low stakes. It gives him freedom. It will never fail. But we can do better.
Imagine what would happen if this same conversation opened with a high-velocity question such as: “what did your wife say when you told her you have decided to become a professional miniature golfer?” There is no expecting this question, and yet it travels in the same direction that the host hopes the conversation will go. This question is creative and original, but it’s more than that. This question cannot be prepared for. It demands that the guest go to his memory and pull out an anecdote that will often surprise and delight him. It gets the guest to think about the situation in a new way while getting right to the center of the journey that the host hopes to take the guest and the listening audience on.