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Get Them Talking: Using Questions to Get Real Answers and Engagement

Get Them Talking: Using Questions to Get Real Answers and Engagement | HRDQ-U Blog

Written by: Christina Butler

“There’s no such thing as a bad question.”

Many of us remember that line from our school days. I used to think it was a great way to encourage questions until I realized there actually are bad questions.  Or, more specifically, there are bad ways to ask questions if you are a presenter who wants to engage your audience.

If I ask “Did you have a nice weekend?” you can tell me yes or no and then move on. If I want to form a connection with you through conversation, asking “What did you do that was fun this weekend?” strikes a moving dialogue.


>> Learn more at the webinar: Ready, Set, Present!


It’s the difference between closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. As presenters, to engage our audience we should strive for open-ended.

Open-ended questions create dialogue. A conversation is more engaging than a straight lecture.

Closed-ended questions close-off your conversation.  If your audience can answer with a simple yes or no, you aren’t pulling engagement from them.

Some tips to keep in mind to effectively engage your audience with questions:

  • Begin your question with words like how, why, and what instead of do, is, are, will.
  • You can follow-up a closed-ended question and make it open-ended by saying “tell me why you think that…” or “explain that response.”
  • Avoid asking questions like “does that make sense” or “is everyone following.” Not only are they closed-ended, but they put the audience member in a negative light if they respond by saying they don’t understand.


Here are some examples of how switching your phrasing will elicit dialogue from your audience.

Closed: Do you think this strategy could work in your department?

Open: What do you think about implementing this strategy in your department?

Closed: Is the deadline on everyone’s radar?

Open:  What concerns or comments are there about the deadline?

Closed: Can I tell you a little more about this product?

Open:  Where would you like to start our discussion about this product?

Closed: Does everyone understand?

Open: Who can summarize what we just covered?

Closed: Is this making sense?

Open: Where can I elaborate?

Remember, questions are your friend! Use them and invite them. A solid presenter encourages questions and does not run away from them. One last example as a way to end this post:

Closed: Do you have any questions about questions?

Open: What questions do you have about questions?

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