Three Reasons You Should Encourage Audience Questions
“To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from “What information do I need to convey?” to “What questions do I want my audience to ask?”– Chip Heath, co-author with Dan Heath of the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
Do you dread the audience Question and Answer period? Most speakers do. Why?
Audience questions are a golden opportunity to make your presentation more valuable to you and your audience.
Below are three reasons you should encourage audience questions:
Audience questions give you valuable awareness of what your audience is thinking. If you know what your audience is thinking, you will have a good idea of their wants and needs. In addition, knowing your audience’s wants and needs allows you to tailor your presentation to that particular audience, making it much more valuable to them.
Embracing audience questions promotes participation and engagement during presentations, discussions, or events.
You encourage your audience to interact and contribute their thoughts, ideas, and concerns by encouraging questions. These are your “bread and butter” as a speaker.
This creates a more dynamic and interactive atmosphere, fostering a deeper connection and understanding between you and your audience.
The Q&A period always has questions and answers, but sometimes you will be asking questions, and your audience will give the answers. This is a great way to obtain more detail on the questions your audience is asking.
If your audience asks you for clarification on what you said in your presentation, you may want to ask if anyone in the audience has further clarification of your answer
If your audience asks you a question about one of your main points, you may want to “echo” the question back to the audience and see if someone has something to add
If your audience asks you a question that is related but not totally on your topic, you may want to ask your audience how this question is relevant
Any method you can use to get your audience involved is fair game. Can you think of any other ways you can use the Q&A period to raise engagement with your audience?
So, audience questions can increase your engagement with your audience.
Audience questions also provide you with valuable audience insights
Valuable Insights into Your Audience
Audience questions provide an opportunity to gain valuable insights and perspectives. When individuals ask questions, they bring their unique experiences and knowledge to the table, offering fresh views you may not have considered.
By embracing audience questions, you open yourself up to diverse viewpoints, which can enrich the conversation and lead to discoveries and innovative ideas. When your audience asks you questions, they are interested in what you are saying as it pertains to them. Audience interest is always a good sign.
You can also identify knowledge gaps when your audience members ask questions. It provides you with valuable insights into the knowledge gaps that exist among the listeners. Speakers can understand which areas or concepts need further clarification or explanation by analysing the questions asked.
You can also uncover your audience’s perspectives when its members ask questions. Audience questions can provide you insights into the listeners’ stands, concerns, and interests. Different individuals may have different viewpoints or specific issues they want to address. When attendees ask questions, it allows the speaker to understand the various perspectives within the audience, enabling them to tailor their responses and address specific concerns.
Questions asked by your audience can indicate their engagement and interest levels during a presentation or speech. When attendees actively participate by posing relevant and thought-provoking questions, it demonstrates their engagement with the topic. On the other hand, a lack of questions or minimal participation may indicate disinterest or confusion. When you lack questions, you know you have to change something in your content, delivery, or both.
So, audience questions increase your engagement with your audience and provide you valuable insights into their thinking.
Audience questions also provide clues on how to tailor your presentation content and delivery to be more responsive to your audience.
Addressing audience questions allows you to tailor your content to their needs and interests. By listening to their inquiries, you can identify areas where further clarification or elaboration is necessary.
This enables you to adapt your presentation or discussion in real-time, ensuring that your audience receives the most relevant and valuable information. In addition, embracing audience questions promotes a personalized and customized experience, making your content more meaningful and impactful for each individual.
Three additional benefits of audience questions to tailoring your presentation are:
Customizing Information Delivery: Audience questions provide valuable insights into the specific areas of interest or confusion among the listeners. By understanding the audience’s questions, you can tailor your content to address their particular needs and concerns.
Adapting to the Audience’s Level of Understanding: Questions from the audience can reveal their level of understanding of a particular topic. You can gauge the audience’s existing knowledge and expertise by analyzing the types of questions asked and the level of depth or complexity involved. You can then adjust your content and delivery to the level of your audience.
Addressing Specific Concerns or Interests: Audience questions often arise from specific concerns, experiences, or interests of individuals within the group. By actively listening to their questions, you can identify recurring themes or common issues and incorporate relevant information into your content. This enables you to provide answers directly addressing your audience’s needs and concerns.
So, audience questions give you great opportunities to tailor your presentation content and delivery to be more responsive to their needs and concerns
Audience questions (1) increases your engagement with your audience, (2) provide you valuable insights into their thinking, and (3) allow you to tailor your presentation “on the fly” to your audience’s needs and concerns.
Audience questions? Bring ‘em on!
Call to Action
Use audience questions to
Increase your engagement with your audience
Gain valuable insights into your audience’s thinking
Tailor your presentation content and delivery to better serve your audience
“Given the choice between trivial material brilliantly told versus profound material badly told, an audience will always choose the trivial told brilliantly”– Robert McKee, Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”