How to ask questions during a presentation?

How to ask questions during a presentation?

A presentation is not just about delivering a narrative with declarative sentences. It's also a dialogue. A dialogue in which, of course, the presenter speaks more. But it's a dialogue that should involve both sides. So how do you ask questions during a presentation to make it great?

We have three main types of questions at our disposal:

  1. Questions for our own answers – these are questions to which we ourselves will soon provide answers. This is a good way to lead the narrative. Starting a topic? Let's ask a question followed by a two or three-second pause, and then we'll answer that question. For example: "Why did we experience a decrease last year? It's all because...". Or: "How many work hours will this require? Over 20 thousand. Together with subcontractors' work hours – 60 thousand." This way, we can open up various threads of our presentation. Not necessarily each one after the other – that would be too monotonous. However, introducing such questions from time to time will spice up the presentation.

  2. Questions for the audience – these questions open up discussions. In this case, we shift the responsibility for the presentation onto the audience itself. It's a simple and effective way to engage them. However, remember to keep the discussion under control and avoid unnecessary prolongation. Keep track of time and encourage meeting participants to express themselves succinctly (for example, by starting a discussion with a constraint like: "how would you describe this in a maximum of two sentences?"). Audience questions can be of two types:

    - Open-ended questions – e.g., What do you think about this idea? – open up longer discussions.

    - Closed-ended questions – e.g., Which option do you prefer: A or B? – open up shorter discussions.

    When dealing with a large audience, it's definitely better to use closed-ended questions.

  3. Rhetorical questions – these are questions to which no answer is expected, at least not one that would be expressed aloud. For example: Was it worth investing three million in this project? Was it worth hiring ten additional people? Was it worth staying up late to get such a reply? The answer to rhetorical questions is obvious, which is why it's not voiced. Rhetorical questions have little informational value but possess enormous potential for evoking specific emotions. In the example above, it might evoke a sense of indignation.

Regardless of the type of questions used in our presentation, it's worth incorporating them. Why?

Firstly, questions add variety to the narrative and intonation. Amidst a series of declarative sentences, questions stand out. They are more distinct, stronger, and thus easier for the audience to notice.

Secondly, questions have the wonderful power of engaging the audience. Are they nodding off? Drifting away in their thoughts? Reaching for their phones to scroll through social media? Ask any question. A question instinctively makes the audience feel obligated to find an answer. It's a subconscious reaction that brings the audience back to the "here and now."

Thirdly, questions can open the audience's thinking to entirely new avenues. Well-posed questions can spark unconventional thoughts in the minds of the audience. Thoughts that may lead to original and creative solutions. And that's what we might aim for in a presentation. Not just to inform but to inspire.


To inspire, persuade, and present at the highest level, check out our training, including the Professional Presentations training HERE>.

Piotr Garlej

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