Are you sick and tired of never getting any questions from the audience after your presentation? I’m sure you know this all too well. You spend hours, days or weeks preparing your talk. You make sure to research audience needs, shape your key points to resonate with their expectations and fine-tune your stunning visuals.

Then inevitably near the end of your show you drop the Q-bomb on them.

“What questions do you have for me?” You ask with genuine enthusiasm.

“…”

“Take your time…” A slight tone of nervousness is sensed in your voice as you try to mask it with a social smile.

“…”

“I see… Well if you have any in the feature you can find me at (…)” You give yourself a way out, but it’s hard to hide how you really feel.

Crushed.

All that work. All that effort. And no questions? Even a single question?

I know how it feels. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. You just have to accept one thing. It’s still your fault.

What You Do Wrong

We already discussed the Curse of Knowledge concept. It means it is generally difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who knows less. Because of this we often wrongly assume that people will understand something that appears to be obvious. To us.

Unfortunately the receivers of the message are not in your head. It is quite likely that whatever you tell them, they hear for the first time. Unlike you, who processed and wrestled with this knowledge for hours, days or weeks.

How does it relate to asking questions to conclude the presentation?

Let’s switch roles. Imagine you are sitting in the audience, making notes, as someone delivers their wisdom to you. The topic is new to you. You are trying to make sense of it. Put the facts in the right order. Analyze the meaning or figure how this applies to your life.

That’s a lot of work.

Then the Q-bomb is dropped on you. “What questions do you have for me?”

You are shocked and taken by surprise. Where do you start looking for good questions? You quickly shuffle your notes looking for inspiration. What was the most important here? Seconds fly by. “Take your time…” You hear. Still nothing.

Seconds later you are suddenly relieved from your challenge: “I see… Well if you have any in the feature you can find me at (…)”

It’s over.

How to Get a Ton of Questions

By now I’m sure you get the big idea. Give them time. But not just more time. A time better spent. Follow this process to ensure you get lots of questions in the end. Do this instead of simply asking for questions.

Give them time. But not just more time. A time better spent.

1. Individual Takeaways

Ask the audience to write down their top takeaways individually on a piece of paper. Give them 2-3 minutes to complete this assignment.

2. Exchange with Partner

Ask them to turn to the person sitting next to them and exchange their papers.

3. Mini Q&A

Ask partners to question each other based on their written takeaways. Some ideas include asking:

  • Why do you find these worth writing down?
  • Can you tell me more?
  • How are you going to apply these?
  • What else would you like to know?

Give them 2-3 minutes to discuss. Then start your own Q&A.

This process not only ensures audience will have time to reflect on what they found interesting in your talk. They also write it down, which helps them focus on possible question areas. On top of it all they get to externalize and defend their choices by having to answer questions about it.

Now they are ready for your Q&A.

Now they have fully internalized their findings and already generated potential questions based on the dialogue with their peers. Now they are ready for your Q&A.

I have tried this process many times. It rocks. If you struggle eliciting questions from your audiences you are now saved.

You are welcome. Keep your money. But be sure to let me know…

  • Do you have other ideas how to get questions from the audience?
  • Have you tried something similar? How did it work?
  • Looking at the talks you listened to what made you ask questions?

Leave a comment now.

Wojciech is a trainer, teacher and life-long learner on the topic of effective communication. He believes that speaking clearly, effectively and with confidence is essential to our success and taking advantage of all life’s opportunities. READ MORE
  • It is very important to make people feel comfortable during the training, and I am encouraging them to ask the questions throughout workshops and it works.

    • Hi Dawid. Sure thing, I would encourage to do this for every training. Presenting a topic is a different thing though as you often will have time constraints (or you are part of the bigger agenda). Still you always want some kind of engagement (and would give the audience the opportunity to ask questions). I found the described technique to be working very well to make this a success as opposed to blank stares resulting in no questions at all 🙂

  • Great ideas! Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Since writing this post I have used this several times already and few people also reported that this worked well for them!