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There May Be No Such Thing As A Dumb Question, But There Is Such A Thing As A Bad Question

Whether you’re de-briefing an activity or pushing your learners to go deeper on a thought they shared, the type of questions you ask your audience matter.

For example: Is there a particular type of customer you’d prefer to browse (and return to) your website?

Answer: Yes.  Or no.  But that’s it.  Yes.  Or no.  Head nodding.  Or shaking of heads.  Or blank stares because closed-ended questions like this don’t really require much thinking.

Yet in presentation after presentation, I’m surprised at how often a facilitator uses closed-ended questions in an attempt to engage the audience and to make a session more interactive. In the end, closed-ended questions generally serve to needlessly (and sometimes painfully) prolong a session and the facilitator often does most of the talking.

What’s the solution?  A slight tweek to the way questions are phrased.

For example: What kinds of customers would you prefer to have browse (and return to) your website?

Answer: Customers with deep pockets and lots of money and who fit our core demographic.

Facilitator: Interesting.  Tell me more about what you mean by “deep pockets” and “lots of money” and just who is our “core demographic”?

Suddenly, instead of head nodding (or shaking), we have a conversation!  And now others can jump in and agree or disagree.  With a slight tweek to the way a question is asked, things can get good and lively very quickly.

Next time you’re looking to engage your audience in truly engaging conversation – whether in the middle of a lesson or during a de-brief, try a few of these question starters:

Instead of beginning with…

Try this…

Is there…What kinds of…
Has anyone ever…Tell me about a time that…
Does this sound familiar…How does this situation compare to your own experiences…
Do you agree with…What would make you agree with…

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

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