21 Questions You Can Ask To Improve Your Speech Opening
“Good morning everybody. I’m so glad to be here with you today.”
I wanted to yell, “BOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
It was a huge conference and he was the keynote speaker. But when he came up, he started with the same, tired line. I’d heard enough. We’d been through at least 3 gazillion speakers already and I wanted to hear something a bit different. I wanted the speaker to grab my attention and engage. But, these speakers looked like they were just trying to get it over with. I wanted them to communicate with ME and only with me.
How could they have done this? There are many techniques but one of the easiest ways is to ask a question. Why? Questions naturally cause the listener to begin the mental process of formulating an answer. While I don’t recommend this question, even a simple, “How is everybody doing?” causes the listener to mentally question, “Wait a minute, how AM I doing?”
I don’t recommend the “how are you doing” question because it’s overused. It’s not deep enough. Additionally, it doesn’t add anything to your talk. Ideally, you want all of your words to create an intentional experience which helps the listener to remember a central point. When you ask a question, you really want them to begin creating a picture in their minds. This picture forms the foundation for the story you are about to tell.
Will questions work identically in every situation? No. You won’t always be in a place where your audience can respond easily. If you are keynoting, questions are a bit more difficult to pull off than if you are doing a training or workshop breakout. But, they still provide a great way to turn the audiences attention quickly. On a webinar where there is no chat function, it may be difficult to impossible to gauge the audience’s reaction to your question. But if you’ve asked the right kind of question, you can rest assured you’ve created a picture.
What is the right kind of question? These questions prompt the audience to dive into an experience, an emotion, a decision or their imagination. Here are 21 question starters you can use to help you do this:
- How many of you have experienced…?
- When was the last time you…?
- How many times have you…?
- When was the first time you…?
- How often do you think about_______________________?
- When you were in high school, did you…?
- Do you remember your first ever, job interview?
8. [STATEMENT] How many of you agree with this statement?
9. [Show a picture] Which of these appeals to you most?
10. Who is/was your favorite _________________________?
11. When your friends_____________________, what did you do?
12. What if we weren’t able to __________________________?
13. If you were_____________, how would you_______________?
14. When __________________________, why do most people _________________?
15. What if you could __________________________?
16. Imagine living in a world where ____________________________. What would that look like?
17. If I told you ______________________________, would you believe me?
18. What if there was an app that…?
19. Where were you when…?
20. Would you be excited if…?
21. Would you be UP. SET if…?
The next time you are asked to speak, before you say anything else, determine the energy you want to bring to the presentation and give one of these questions a shot. (Try my E.A.S.E. framework) Once you ask the question, pause for 5 seconds to give you listeners a chance to process the question and begin mentally creating their picture.
BOOM! You’ve got their attention. Now, continue to connect.
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