Why does nobody ask questions?

Colourful conference chairs

Anyone who has ever led a workshop, training session or conference will be all-too familiar with the resounding silence that often follows the phrase, “does anyone have any questions?”

When audiences don’t get involved with a meeting or pitch, it can very quickly affect the momentum. It’s no wonder that a lack of questions is often cited as the biggest anti-climax when it comes to event interaction.

So why are attendees so reluctant to speak up?

1 – Fear of looking stupid

For many people, raising their hand reminds them of being at school, where asking a question meant that you didn’t fully understand something. This anxiety has carried through into adult life, and out of a fear of looking silly in front of their peers, most of your audience members would rather say nothing at all.

2 – Insufficient support

Simply announcing a Q&A period doesn’t offer much in the way of encouragement. It puts a lot of pressure on the first person to speak, causing even the most confident participants to pause.

3 – Inability to interrupt

When a speaker is delivering a perfectly-practiced presentation, there aren’t many gaps for audience members to interject with their burning questions. Even if the interruption could have spurred an interesting, relevant discussion, the moment can pass and the question gets forgotten.

4 – Not enough time

It’s a slippery slope – barely anyone asks questions, so the amount of time allocated for the Q&A is slashed, meaning that fewer people have a chance to ask questions and the spiral continues. Consider the fact that much of your audience may be worrying whether their query is worth your time, especially if you’ve only left the last fifteen minutes or so free for interaction.

How can these be addressed with an Audience Response System (ARS)?

Buying or renting an ARS can help drive a lively and interesting Q&A session.  By using the voting system to pose some thought provoking questions, a two-way conversation can easily get started without it being prompted by the presenter, this could be the perfect way to introduce a Q&A or panel session.

Introducing the ARS early in your presentation will also give your audience time to become familiar with it, and what exactly you expect from them. You can foster a “question asking” environment more naturally, empowering your listeners to make their thoughts, opinions or queries be known without directly interrupting your speech.

You should also consider:

  • Using multiple choice for your audience to collectively decide what they would like to hear more about
  • Breaking your audience up into smaller groups (e.g., sitting them around tables rather than in a large auditorium), which feel less intimidating
  • Having a few ice-breaker tasks to help participants relax
  • Including specific moments for your audience to consider and discuss what you have been talking about

Understanding your audience’s hesitation is the first step in helping them overcome their reluctance to engage. At CLiKAPAD, we’ve helped countless clients devise new and interesting ways in which their event attendees can get involved with speakers and presentations, and are always happy to help with a new project. Contact us for more information today, and avoid being met by deafening silence every again.