The Power of a Question

There’s nothing more powerful than a question to engage an audience, and here’s a simple way to make sure you incorporate one into your next presentation: use this PowerPoint slide: Download question.ppt.

Question Here’s what the slide looks like from Notes Page view. If you’re new to looking at PowerPoint this way, the slide area (which the audience sees) is at the top of the page, and a corresponding text box (which the audience does not see) is below. This example has been reformatted a bit so the slide area and notes area are equally balanced, an important unified design principle I describe how to apply in my new book.

In the slide area there are actually only two elements: a blue background and a text box with a question mark set at 407pt Times New Roman.

When it comes to slides you couldn’t get much simpler than this, while at the same time producing a sophisticated effect.

The way you use this slide is that you show it on screen, and then you ask the audience a question while you hold up your own hand. For example, "Has anyone here experienced this problem before?  What happened?"  Then call on a couple of audience members and listen to what they have to say.

With this simple technique you accomplish several evocative things:

  1. You listen to your audience.
  2. You indicate that you care about what they think.
  3. You establish a dynamic where the audience is included.
  4. You capture valuable information about what is on the mind of the audience so you can tailor your words to their needs.
  5. You shift the dynamic from a "show" to a "collaboration."

We normally would think that having more information on a screen will improve a presentation, but in this case the opposite is true. You have no Photoshop backgrounds, no logos, no photographs, no words – nothing standing in the way of you establishing a relationship with your audience.

Ask yourself the question: Is it worth asking a simple question to improve the level of engagement of my next presentation?

Tip: Use this slide in your next presentation. Change the background color if you like. Make a note to yourself of what audience members say in response to your question. After the presentation, summarize their thoughts in the notes area below the slide, and then create a PDF of the Notes Pages of your presentation and send it to the audience. With a simple technique like this, you can magnify the level of engagement with your audience — there’s no question about it.

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One Response to “The Power of a Question”

  1. Engaging an Audience Through a Question

    My name is John, and I like PowerPoint.”

    There. I said it.

    Liking PowerPoint makes me, well, unusual among most communicators. But when it’s done right, PowerPoint can enhance understanding. Isn’t that what communication is all about?

    That’s w…

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