Want to instantly grab people’s attention in a talk?
I nearly lost my voice a few months ago.
Ironically for me, this was the day of my first Powerful Presenter Livestream for 2021….
I woke up that morning and could hardly talk. When I did, it sounded like a teenage boy going through adolescence. Squeaky and in no way sounding powerful!! Oh my god.
Instantly I started thinking ‘How can I possibly run this session and help people learn, if I can hardly talk’!!??
Rescheduling the session wasn’t an option though, so that morning I re-jigged my agenda.
I already had interaction and questions, but I had to flip it even more. Where I had long spots of me explaining things, I substituted this for more questions and group discussion.
…and you know what!? The session went SO well! In fact it went even better than normal (with me doing more talking).
How could this be so?
People loved the additional time to reflect. To figure things out for themselves. To get involved in the topic area. To connect with it, to see different perspectives and talk it out.
It was such a good reminder that you don’t need to explain things yourself to give people lots of value. In fact it’s almost the opposite.
The less you talk and the more space you give your audience to dissect, reflect, discuss and ponder it through the use of effective questions, the more they’ll learn. It’s actually also more enjoyable.
So, since then, I’ve included way more questions than I used to. But not just one or two questions in a talk. I provide multiple opportunities every 5mins or so, to break up my talking and to prompt a conversation, rather than a monologue.
So, on the back of this epic reminder I had, I wanted to share my tips with you on HOW you can include more questions in your talks.
The Benefits Of Using Questions
Questions are so versatile, they’re like a potato of the vegetable world. You can use them for soooo many different reasons.
Here are the key reasons why you’d want to ask questions in a talk.
- You want to generate a sense of suspense or curiousity, so that people want to hear more (like a radio host will do so we listen through the ad breaks!)
- You want to help people relate to the content by asking leading questions or to create a connection between you and the audience, a dialogue.
- To actually hear the audience’s views on something, which means you can then tailor the way you message or describe something later on.
- Make people feel involved, like they are part of a conversation, which means they’ll ultimately enjoy it more.
But, want to know the most important reason?
The #1 reason I use a question, is to make people pay attention!! Because hello, how many times have you drifted off in a presentation!!??
3 Different Categories Of Questions
Ok, so here are the 3 different categories of questions you can use for your next talk. Try one of these out, or if you’re like me, incorporate all three into you talks.
1. Questions For People To Ponder
Rhetorical questions are great for getting people curious and actually wanting to know more.
Because if you can inject the exact question you want people to be asking themselves (into their heads), that’s pretty powerful! It means they’re definitely following the exact thread you’re wanting them to and they’re not thinking about something else.
Another great option is to build suspense by using questions.
Examples for you
- Curiousity – Why is it that apple are so innovative? How do we explain why things don’t always go as we assume?
- Suspense – What I really wanted to know was, is it possible to tell a story without needing a lot of time to prep…….? Let me share with you what I found out!
2. Questions For People To Answer
Questions you want people to answer are great for keeping attention levels high, for overall engagement and buy-in.
If there’s a dialogue and people participate, it will help people relate to what you’re talking about and make sure they’re awake and connecting. People also love to figure things out for themselves, rather than always being told the answers.
An added benefit is that you can get a lot of interesting insights which might inform how you message or explain your content, as you go through your talk.
Examples for you
Attention / Dialogue – Hands up who here has a role where they present in groups / deal with personal information?
Segue – Would you like to know how to turn information into a story?
Relatability – What’s the biggest challenge you think board members have when you present to them?
Buy-In – Can you guess how many apps we have on our phones / how many thoughts we have a day / what the cost of cybercrime is per annum? etc
Key Insights – What outcomes are you looking for when you normally present? What stops you from telling more stories now?
3. Questions For People To Discuss Or Brainstorm
Questions you want people to reflect on or discuss in groups can be really beneficial for learning. Often we need a little space for it to really sink in and make sense.
It allows a bit more in depth thinking on a topic area and invites multiple perspectives on the same topic. It helps people to digest something, kick it around in their minds, and relate it to their world.
By allowing the time and space for people to give their view on something in groups, you’re helping them to connect to the topic, but also to each-other, which can make it a lot more powerful and fun.
Examples for you
- In-Depth Thinking – I want you to sit down and write out what this means to your work environment / 5 ways you can do xyz in your own environment.
- Connection / Idea Generation – In groups let’s brainstorm why you think it’s important to <xyz> and how you’d approach it. Then we’ll come back together to see what you found out or learnt.
As you can see, there are a heap of questions you can use and they all have different purposes.
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question”
– Eugene Jonesco
Using Questions When Presenting Virtually
Now, if you’re presenting in the virtual world, it’s probably even more likely that people will tune out. So, incorporating questions is even more crucial.
You can absolutely still use rhetorical questions. You can create a Poll. You can ask people to answer questions in the chat. You can invite people to unmute themselves and actually answer your questions. Or you can split people up into virtual rooms to discuss in groups.
So next time you’re prepping a talk, move the question in your mind from “what am I going to TELL PEOPLE?”, to “what am I going to ASK PEOPLE?“
You will instantly boost the impact your talk will have!
P.S. If you found this article helpful, please Like, Comment, Share! Also, let me know what part you found most useful or interesting.
Want more tips and tricks to boost the impact when you present? My POWERFUL PRESENTER GROUP COACHING PROGRAM starts mid June. Find out more here.
Emily Edgeley | PUBLIC SPEAKING COACH | www.emilyedgeley.com