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