I never understood it. I will never understand it. Why do untrained speakers avoid questions like Donald Trump avoids intellectual discussions? They prefer to say phrases like; I don’t know who of you have been to New York. Or worse, they make assumptious statements like; We all have regrets in life.
Not knowing something doesn’t sound very convincing to me. And speakers telling me all the time what I have or not have, want or not want, love or not love? Come on, they don’t know me; how can they assume what I have, want or love?
There’s definitely a better way – to ask questions, closed questions. Always ask open questions when you flirt in a bar like, What kind of music do you like?). Always ask open questions in sales like, How does your expansion plan look like? Open questions drive a conversation. In public speaking situations, on the other hand, I strongly suggest that you avoid open questions. Open questions in a speech or presentations are an exclusive invitation for the alpha dogs in the audience to attack.
In public speaking, the simple and banal closed question has four superpowers – attention, empathy, similarity and relevance.
Superpower 1 – Attention
Did you know that you could not not answer a question you hear? You’ve just proved the case. Our brain has to answer any question.
- Have you been happy in life?
- Have you been sad in life?
- Have you been to New York?
You just have to answer any question you hear. That means, when you hear a question, you’re 100% attentive – automatically. Closed question in public speaking raise the level of attention in your audience.
Superpower 2 – Empathy
Think about one your last business meetings. Wasn’t there this one person who spoke all the time? The talker? They’re everywhere. I talk a lot too. But – today – every time I catch myself talking too much, I bit my tongue and ask a question. Who shows more empathy – the one who talks or the one who asks?
When you ask your audience questions, you show that you care for their opinion. Questions build bridges of empathy.
Superpower 3 – Similarity
Do you have a lot in common with your friends? I do. Common ground is the soil where friendship grows. Having something in common with someone builds trust. When you have something in common with your audience it builds trust. It raises your credibility. Your ethos goes up, when you have something in common. But – how do you know that you have a similarity with your audience?
You guessed it – ask closed questions!
Superpower 4 – Relevance
Finally, you can use a special form of closed questions to boost the relevance of your talk. An audience who doesn’t care turns any speech in the world into a useless speech.
Rhetorical questions can make a speech topic more relevant to the audience. Imagine I said, Who wouldn’t love to improve him or herself? Doesn’t stagnancy mean you’re dead already, even if you’re alive?
Once you asked these rhetorical questions, your potential speech topic on self-improvement would be so much more relevant to your audience.
In the future, feel more confident about asking closed questions to your audience. You might convert yourself into a Superman of rhetoric.