Asking questions. Did you know that the skill of asking questions, not only adds to your overall communication skills, but can be a great way to start a presentation? Not only do questions engage your listeners, they also help you as the speaker, focus the attention of your audience. Asking questions is such an easy, simple and effective way to involve an audience, and a popular technique for many speakers. But far too often little thought is given to the ‘process of asking’.
Whether we are presenting to an audience of 1000 at a convention centre or to a group of 10 in a boardroom when it comes to asking questions of our audience, here are a few points to keep in mind.
Make sure that everyone has heard the question. This is so obvious, yet so often overlooked. Not all parts of every room are quiet to the same degree. Not everyone is tuned-in at the same time to hear what you just asked. There is no crime in repeating parts of your question or in repeating all of it.
As the speaker or presenter you are the one who decides the type of questions you want to ask. Do you want to ask a hypothetical, a ‘what if …’ question? Are you looking for people in the audience to sit back and imagine? Examples of imagining or hypothetical questions: “What if you had all the financial resources to …?” or “Imagine what would happen if we implemented this policy.” Then pause… Give your listeners a chance to do the imagining. Always let them know they will have 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes whatever. Give them time to do what you asked them to do.
Perhaps you are not interested in dealing with a hypothetical. Instead, you want to ask open-ended, direct questions. Open-ended means you are looking for more than just a one-word response. You want your questions answered directly before moving on with your presentation. However, before you ask, you need to let people in your audience know how you want them to respond. Do you want them to shout out their answers? Jump up from their seats? Put up their hands?
No matter which approach you use, shorter questions are better than longer. The shorter the question, the more people will listen, remember the question and provide a quick response. When an audience knows and understands what the speaker wants them to do, they will follow through every time.
When your audience starts giving you answers to your questions, don’t just give one-word responses such as “Interesting” or “Yes” or “Great”. Repeat or paraphrase, and connect the response from the audience member to yours. For example, “Interesting, you see lower absenteeism.” Or “Yes, more engagement.”
Every time you acknowledge the audience, you are strengthening your relationship with that audience building on each others communication skills. Always think about where you can join their comments to your content as you move through your presentation.
Asking questions. They have amazing impact. Whether you are asking questions at the start of your presentation or you sprinkle them throughout your speech, questions not only engage, they also raise the energy level in the room, and what could be better than that.