Many presenters take questions from the audience and answer them, but fewer ask the audience questions. Asking the audience questions has many benefits, including:
- Breaking the ice — when you do it early in the presentation
- Getting the audience involved
- Giving the presenter crucial information about the audience, including what they’re interested in, what they already know, and what their needs are
- Waking up the audience (works well after lunch and in the late afternoon)
- Getting feedback on how much they understood
- Uncovering objections or disagreements (important if you’re trying to persuade the audience)
- Showing respect for the audience’s point of view
Some of these benefits you obtain by taking questions from the audience — if they ask the questions they have. But you’d be surprised how many people never ask questions.
Other benefits are unique to the technique of asking the audience questions. You start a conversation. Try to build flexibility into your presentation so you can respond to the answers you obtain. For example, some audiences want you to get straight to the point and others want lots of backup details. You may not know in advance which type of audience you’ll have, although it’s good to do some early research, if possible. You can have slides with the details available and show them only if your audience says they want to see them. You can do this using the custom show feature or by linking to a separate presentation.
When you ask questions, you need to plan out the questions you’ll ask and plan for possible answers.
Try asking your audience questions at your next presentation and see if you get better results compared to just speaking yourself straight through.