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

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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
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“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. More specifically, there are bad ways to ask questions if you are a presenter who wants to engage your audience and get answers.

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.

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The Difference between Open- and Closed-Ended Questions

As presenters, to engage our audience, we should strive for open-ended questions to get answers. Open-ended questions create dialogue. A conversation is more engaging than a straight lecture.

Open-ended questions also empower the audience to think critically about the material being presented. Instead of passively absorbing the information, audience members are prompted to reflect on the subject matter, consider different angles, and form their own opinions. This not only deepens the audience’s understanding but also contributes to a more interactive and thought-provoking presentation.

Additionally, open-ended questions provide presenters with valuable feedback and insights. Depending on the responses you receive, you can tailor your content to better match the audience’s needs and interests.

On the other hand, 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.

Closed-ended questions also make it difficult to understand your audience’s comprehension of the material and their interests. This puts you and your presentation at a disadvantage because you don’t know how best to address their concerns and keep them engaged, so they aren’t fully absorbing the information of your presentation.

Presenters should be mindful of their question-posing strategy, opting for open-ended questions to encourage active participation, critical thinking, and a more interactive presentation. By avoiding an over-reliance on closed-ended questions, presenters can create a more engaging and dynamic atmosphere that fosters a deeper connection with the audience.

Tips to Engage Your Audience

Here are some tips to keep in mind to effectively engage your audience with questions that will get answers:

  • Begin your question with words like how, why, and what instead of do, is, are, or 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.
  • Tailor your questions to the interests and knowledge level of your audience.
  • Make sure the questions you ask are directly related to the content of the presentation.
  • Use a variety of open-ended questions that are opinion-based, scenario-based, and reflective to keep the audience engaged.

How to Phrase Your Questions

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?

Christina Butler headshot
Christina Butler

Christina Butler transitions 20 years of covering breaking news as a reporter and anchor into professional coaching on presentation skills, development, and media management. Fascinated by behavioral styles, she’s DiSC certified and runs programs for both individuals and groups. As a speaker, she uses her expertise in impression management, relationship building, and media coaching to help her clients in a variety of industries. Virtually, Christina enjoys connecting with clients and audiences on best practices for virtual engagement and presence. She is a contributing author for Best in Class: Etiquette and People Skills for Your Career (2018) and Making the Grade: Presentation Success from Classroom to Conference Room (2019). When she is not speaking or on television, Christina enjoys spending time outside with her husband and two children.

Connect with Christina on LinkedInFacebookTwitter, and at

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