How Do You Ask Questions?

The answer you get depends on how you ask a question
The answer you get depends on how you ask a question
Image Credit:
Véronique Debord-Lazaro

One of the most powerful tools that a public speaker has is the question. Sure, despite the importance of public speaking our speeches are pretty much one sided affairs – we get up in front of an audience and we talk and they listen. However, when you incorporate a question into your speech all of a sudden you are now involving your audience. When you ask a question, your audience has to come up with an answer. This is going to make them think. However, it turns out that how you ask your question can have a big impact on how they answer it.

Answers Depend On How Questions Are Asked

When you are creating your speech, a question that you’d like to ask your audience may come to you. If you are not careful, you may just drop it into your speech with no further thought and then ask it to your audience as a part of your speech. That’s the wrong way to go about doing this. What you need to realize is that the way in which you ask your audience a question can have a big impact on the answer that they will come up with for it.

How we go about framing a question, how we ask it, can have a big impact on the type of answers that our audience will come up with – their responses can be either positive or negative. If we ask our audience a strategic question, then we can expect to be able to connect with them via dialog or perhaps by generating feeling of both inspiration and empathy. If we ask negative questions, then we can come across as being judgmental and intimidating.

We need to realize that every question that we ask carries with it the ability to cause a wide range of reactions in our audience. Small changes that we make to how we ask the question, such as our tone of voice or the words that we use can result in significantly different responses from our audience.

Listening Is An Important Part Of Asking A Question

There is no question that adding questions to your next speech is a powerful way to include your audience in your speech. However, it turns out that just adding some questions, asking them during your speech, and then going on is not going to accomplish what you want. Instead, you need to realize that there are really two sides to each question: there is, of course, the question, but then there is also the answer that your audience comes up with.

What you are going to want to do during your speech is to ask your audience a question. Then you are going to want to pause for just a moment while they digest your question and formulate their answer. Very quickly you’ll start to see your audience start to state their answer out loud. If you’ve asked a question that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no” then you’ll start to see heads shaking either up and down or side to side. You need to take a moment, gather what your audience is trying to tell you in terms of their answer, then then proceed by incorporating their collective answer into your speech.

As a speaker, when you are asking a question as a part of your speech, you are doing it for a reason. Yes, you want to wake up your audience and get them to participate in your speech, but you would also like to get their feedback on an issue. If what you want is a concise and straightforward answer from your audience, then you are going to have to craft a question that is straightforward. Your question is going to have to explore an idea that you have presented, clarify some point that you have covered, or cause your audience to consider one of the points that you’ve made more deeply.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers, when we are giving a speech we want to find ways to maximize the benefits of public speaking and keep our audience’s attention. One simple way to go about doing this is to incorporate questions into our speeches. This will cause your audience to spend time thinking about what they think the correct answer is. How you go about asking your question may have a big impact on how your audience answers it.

Depending on how ask a question, if we are positive or if we are negative, our audience will potentially come up with different answers. Based on the questions that we ask our audience, we can cause a wide range of reactions to occur in them. Our tone and our words can have a big impact on this. We also need to keep in mind that there is another side to asking questions: listening. When we ask a question, our audience will create an answer. We need to take the time to listen to what they will be trying to tell us. We need to understand that the type of question that we ask them will determine the type of answer they’ll be giving us.

Questions are a powerful part of any speech that you give. You need to understand that you are in control of your questions and you have to take the time to shape them so that they’ll get the response that you want them to. Take the time to craft good questions and then let them help you give even better speeches.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How many questions do you think that you should include in a typical 30 minute speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ok public speaker, what is the most important part of a speech? Is it what you do with your hands? Is it the amount of eye contact that you are able to achieve during a speech? Is it the clever dance moves that you’ve worked into the half-way point in your speech to show off the importance of public speaking? It turns out that the answer to all of these questions is no. The most important part of your next speech is its structure. How are you going to guide your audience from where you start, point A, to where you want them to get to, point Z?