What speakers should do if no one asks a question

It’s not good if your audience doesn’t ask any questions after your presentation. If this has ever happened to you, here’s how to ensure it never happens again.

When I coach speakers and presenters, the question I get most often is: What if you don’t get any questions after your presentation?

Let’s face it: A lack of questions is a bad sign.

But what does this mean, and what can you do to spark questions? Here are some possible reasons why your audiences don’t ask anything, as well as some solutions:

1. You pack too much into your presentation.

When you cover your topic like a blanket, you don’t leave much room for questions.

I’ve yet to work with a client who lacked material to deliver, and all of my trainees look for ways to create more room for their facts. But remember this: If you have a lot to say, save some facts for the Q&A.

You’ll look smarter and give your audience room to participate.

2. You don’t allow enough time for questions.

Some speakers manage to use up all the allotted time or fail to build in pauses during which they could engage the audience.

Your audience wants to do more than just applaud, as you’ll find out if you use the advantages of the speaker who allows extra time.

3. You don’t announce up front that you’ll be looking for questions.

Instead of launching into your talk right away, take a moment to say, “My presentation is about 15 minutes long. I want to save the bulk of our time today for your questions.”

This accomplishes two wonderful things: You warn the audience you won’t use all the oxygen in the room, and you invite the audience members to think about what they want to say.

4. You don’t walk the talk.

You can demonstrate your willingness to receive questions before you begin talking by wandering into the audience to shake hands with people as they get settled. You can also greet people at the door and say, “I’m eager to hear what you have to say on this topic.” You can even take a handful of questions right away and promise to answer them after your talk.

5. Your answers are too long.

Questions aren’t an excuse to give another mini talk, but many speakers treat them that way. Let the audience get a few words in to keep the engagement going.

6. You don’t work with the moderator or host before you speak.

A word with the moderator or host before your talk can prompt her to be ready with the first question, after which she can turn to the group and say, “Who else would like to ask something?”

Lose this tactic: Don’t plant friends in the audience and have them ask questions if no one else asks any. This inauthentic approach can backfire and ruin your credibility.

Denise Graveline is the president of don’t get caught, a communications consultancy. She also writes The Eloquent Woman, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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