Questions engage in ways that statements do not. Are you taking full advantage of the three types of questions in your presentation? Use these three types of questions to better engage your audience throughout the presentation.
Answer Questions from the Audience
This traditional method is often handled poorly. Typically the presenter delivers the presentation and then feebly asks, "Are there any questions?"
What's wrong with this approach? The end of the presentation and the question period arrived without warning so the audience was unprepared. After an uncomfortable period of silence someone lobs a weak question.
So chop the afterthought question period into chunks that you insert into key points during your presentation. Tell the audience that you will take questions a few times during the presentation. Allow them to prepare by announcing, "I'll take questions on this part in about three minutes." When you want questions ease them into asking questions with, "Who has the first question about this section?"
Ask Questions of the Audience
This is a productive way to engage your audience because this demonstrates that you are interested in their experience and opinion. But you must ask good questions. Contrary to popular myth, there are dumb (and annoying) questions. For example, "How is everybody today?" is a dumb question. One, the speaker doesn't really care. Two, no individual in the audience can truthfully answer the question, because none of them speaks for "everybody". Also avoid "fake polling" questions, "How many like vacations?" The speaker doesn't care what the answer is and the audience will realize that they are being manipulated.
Better questions are, "In your experience, how have you seen this problem addressed?" "What are some the options that the team might have in this situation?" "What ideas have worked for your organization?" "What could we do to improve this experience for the customer?"
Inject these questions throughout your presentation. That keeps your audience active in the conversation.
Pose Rhetorical Questions
This is the easiest way to use questions in your presentation. It's also the least risky because you both pose and answer the questions. There are no surprises. You suggest that question, pause for a couple seconds - long enough for the question to sink in but not so long that somebody shouts out an answer.
Rhetorical questions make good transitions and you move from one point to the next. Here is a series of good transition phrases, "What does the problem look like?" "What options do we have?" "What have we decided?" "What's the schedule look like?" "What's the payoff?" "What are the next steps?"
Try to ask questions that might be in the mind of your listener.
Using questions of any type will make the audience feel that they are in a conversation and not being subjected to a pitch or lecture. Use all three types of questions and your audience will be actively engaged in your presentation.
© George Torok is the Speech Coach for Executives. He coaches executives and trains professionals to deliver million dollar presentations. Get your free copy of "How to Turn Presentation Disasters into Presentation Success at http://www.SpeechCoach.ca