Q&A with Billy Joel

Speakers tend to enjoy Q&A sessions. All they need is a knowledge of their subject, and the confidence or chutzpah to run with the dialogue. There are a few guidelines to be followed, but they are pretty obvious. (The most widespread error – in fact it’s almost universal – is to put the Q&A at the very end of the speech. If you want to learn more about that you’ll have to buy my book!)

When celebrities hold “An Evening with …” sessions, these almost always consist entirely of Q&A. The reason is obvious: they don’t have to prepare anything.

Billy Joel was doing one such at Vanderbilt University when Michael Pollack, a music student, asked a question.

Hoary-headed old grumps like me might be tempted to mutter something along the lines of “less is more, particularly when it comes to jazz” but …

  • Did Pollack expect to get up on that stage? Hell no!
  • Did he know the evening was being put on video? Probably.
  • Did he know, once he was invited up, that this clip would be posted on line? Hell yes!
  • Did he think it might go viral? Are you kidding? – with Billy Joel? Hell yes!
  • Was he going to waste a chance to showcase his startling technical virtuosity? Hell no!
  • Did he reckon that subtlety could show itself later? Hell yes!
  • Would I or anyone (given this young man’s talent and opportunity) do differently? Hell no!

Good luck to him. I see he now has a website.

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