“Would anyone like to answer the question? Anyone?” – How to Encourage Your Audience to Answer Your Questions in Presentations
You are deep within your presentation, delivering with strong confidence and bringing your audience members through the various parts of your content. At the height of your delivery, you decided to (excitedly) pose a question to your audience … and were instantly met with silence. What do you do? Asking questions or using audience survey is a powerful technique to draw your audience’s attention. This may backfire, however, if your audience refuses to reply or respond to your engagement strategy.
We have seen confident speakers start to falter, pause, and stutter as they grapple with trying to breathe life into a passive audience. It is important to understand foremost that the audience members are not out to sabotage you. Rather, their inactivity or muted reaction may stem from the same fear of being in the limelight. In short, they are probably as worried as you about being the centre of attention!
Your goal is to create a safe and inviting environment in your presentation – here are three ways to achieve this!
#1: Lead by Example
The common mistake most speakers face is to take the audience’s reaction personally – they start to equate the muted reaction with their speaking ability. There could be many reasons for the audience’s lack of response (e.g., general tiredness). No matter the scenario, the onus may fall on you as the presenter to inject energy into your audience. Part of making an inviting atmosphere is to reframe a possibly tense, awkward presentation setting to an open, safe discussion.
To achieve this environment, you will need to lead by example – your audience members will take the lead from your stage energy. In short, if you are awkward, they are more likely to react awkwardly as well. Instead, remember to make it clear to your audience that you are asking a question that needs their response or input. For example, give direct instructions when asking your question by inviting participants to raise their hands or share their answers. Remember to raise your volume and tone towards the end of your question to signpost your intent!
#2: Encourage & Persuade
If your audience remains passive (even after the methods above), it may be time to bring out the big guns. Instead of retreating and avoiding questions completely, you may need to continue to engage the audience. Encourage them to deliver responses or persuade them to try their hand at providing their views. You will need to show your sincerity in engaging the audience!
There are three ways you can try to create that encouraging atmosphere. First, reframe your question to allow for an easier answer. For example, instead of a broad, open-ended question (“What are your favourite food?”), start with an easy yes-no (close-ended) question (“Do you like to eat?”). Second, choose an audience survey (e.g., by a show of hands, yes-no) instead of sticking with broader questions. Once your audience is comfortable, you can coax them with deeper questions. Third, pick an audience member (e.g., someone who tends to be more participative) to set the ball rolling. The rest of your audience members may feel the ease in responding after watching their classmate in action!
#3: Warm Them Up!
If all else fails, the last resort is to move away from the questioning process and look towards warming your audience up! This is not a retreat. It is an acknowledgement that your audience members may need some time to warm up and be comfortable before you try again. One quick response is to provide them with an answer and immediately share the rationale for the question – “No worries! This question will help us understand why it is important to speak confidently – let me explain …”. Remember to (i) reassure the audience, (ii) explain the rationale, and (iii) move the presentation forward to your next point.
Whether it is a formal business presentation or a short speech, there is always room for you to explore how best to warm your audience up. Start by identifying your audience members who are likely to be participative. From there, build rapport by creating relevance or connection (e.g., “How about you, John, I understand you have a training background, why do you think …”). Acknowledge any answer given by your audience and draw the link to your sharing!
Keep Asking Those Questions!
Audience surveys, questions, or polling are not just methods to superficially engage your audience. They are potentially powerful tools to change your business presentation, speech, or communication setting to a comfortable, safe, and engaging conversation. Help your audience build that safe space to respond to your questions, and you may just end up with an extremely satisfied audience. Take that first step to achieving this objective by trying one of the methods above!
WATCH this video: [A Speaker’s Sense] How To Use Audience Feedback To Your Advantage in Public Speaking
By The Way…
If you are keen to take your public speaking skills & presentation skills (either business/corporate presentation / kids in-class presentation) to the next level so that you may communicate and deliver speeches with greater flair and charisma, feel free to check out our public speaking/ presentation skills course for adults and public speaking course for children below!
For more about our (weekly group classes) Public Speaking/ Presentation Skills Course for Adults :
If you are looking for a 2-day intensive public speaking/ presentation skills course for adults instead (for our adult learners who can’t do weekends), learn more about our presentation skills training course here: https://www.publicspeakingacademy.com.sg/presentation-skills-training-course-by-world-champion/
If you are looking for Public Speaking/ Presentation Courses for Kids / Children:
If you are a human resources manager/ business owner in your company…
We want to help you bring out the best in your team, organization, and company. Public speaking and communication skills for the workplace, such as persuasion, remain a priority for most corporate training out there. We believe in staying ahead of the curve in sharing the contemporary communication skills to help you and your team remain relevant, competitive and nimble. Through our customized corporate training programmes, your team will benefit from an in-depth, hands-on, and potential-maximising public speaking & presentation skills training programme!
Feel free to reach out to us to curate your own public speaking corporate training programme for your team, company, or organization! Let us help you develop them into highly effective public speakers at work, empowered with effective presentation skills & storytelling skills – them giving speeches with charisma, influence and impact is something you can look forward to!
For effective presentation skills training & public speaking training for corporates/ employees: https://www.publicspeakingacademy.com.sg/corporate-public-speaking-training-workshop/