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The Worst Question to Ask Your Audience

Let’s say you’ve come to the end of your talk or the end of a training module. You want to know if anybody has questions. Here’s a question people ask all the time, and usually, it’s the wrong thing to ask:

 “Do You Have Any Questions?”

Here’s why: this is a “closed-ended” question. It asks for a just one-word answer.

The answer is either “yes,” or “no.”

Neither of those answers is what you want.

Instead, you’re hoping for a great question about the presentation. You want to find out if anyone is puzzled about the topic, or if they have something to add to a conversation about it.

What’s a better question to ask?

“What questions do you have about [the topic]?”

This second question is structured as an “open-ended” question, which invites a more robust response. This is a simple, but profound change to the question.

08-13 Morning Daisies Cover
Photo © Jeanne Farrington

Here are some additional questions you can use to spark more discussion:

  • How can you use this when you get back to your desk?
  • What do you think will happen if you try this?
  • What can get in the way of using [this new idea]?
  • Why would this be hard or easy?
  • What ideas do you have for making this work?

When It’s Time to Move On. If it’s time to wrap up your session and move on to the next thing, then bring out the closed questions.

  • Does anybody have one last question before we go to lunch?
  • Do you have any questions before we move on?

You can also use closed questions to remind your audience of key points or to check for understanding:

  • So, when we speak to our customers, do we want to make eye contact?
  • Are you going to use closed questions to spark more dialogue?
  • If you want a more detailed answer, what kind of questions should you ask, open or closed?

You can use open-ended or closed-ended questions to increase or decrease the length and type of responses you get from your audience. This will help you to encourage interaction when you want it or to end a session when it’s time to move on. Making the simple change from “Do you have any questions?” to “What questions do you have?” will make a huge difference in whether people ask questions, or not.


Article | Open & Closed Questions

Article | Examples of Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions

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