September 19, 2017
Ever seen a presenter ask “Any questions?” at the end of their presentation, and heard only crickets from the audience?
Asking for questions and getting none kills a presentation’s momentum. It usually goes like this:
OUCH. How’d that happen?
Chances are, you caught your audience by surprise. They didn’t know you’d take questions, so they didn’t think of any. When you asked, you caught them off guard.
I want your next presentation to end with a bang, not a whimper. So try these tips to encourage questions:
> TIP THEM OFF EARLY: As you start your presentation, tell your audience: “I’ll take all your questions at the end, so write down your questions as you think of them along the way.” That’ll get them active thinking of questions throughout your presentation.
> REMIND THEM: A few minutes before you take questions, say: “I’ve got one more slide to cover, then I’ll take your questions.” That’ll remind them to think of some questions if they haven’t yet.
> LEAVE ROOM: Starting a Q&A with little or no time left discourages questions; your audience wants to leave on time too! Instead, carve out 5-10 minutes or more for questions (and cut some content to make room if needed; your audience prioritizes the information they want to get over the information you want to share).
> USE A PLANT: Have a “plant” in the audience who’ll ask the first question (one you’re comfortable answering), which encourages other audience members to ask (and saves them the awkwardness of going first) and gives them time to think of something to ask.
> CHANGE YOUR PHRASING: Your audience may interpret the phrase “Any questions?” as a sign that you don’t expect or even want questions, which discourages them from asking. Instead, encourage questions by phrasing your question with a more upbeat, expectant tone: “Who’s got a question?” or “Who’d like to go first?”
> ASK IT YOURSELF: Ask yourself a common question: “One question I get often is…” Then answer it. Again, this encourages the audience to follow suit, and gives them more time to think of a question.
Q&A or not, ending your presentation by saying you’re ending your presentation (“OK, I guess I’m done”) will end your presentation with a whimper. You can easily replace that whimper with a “bang” by restating your main takeaway and thanking your audience:
“Folks, I hope my presentation has shown you that when it’s raining and you want to stay dry outside, use an umbrella! You won’t regret it. Thanks so much for your time.”
And thank you so much for your time!
by Andy Saks