6 tips on how to use rhetorical questions effectively in your presentations

how to use rhetorical questions effectively in your presentations Janice Haywood

6 tips on how to use rhetorical questions effectively in your presentations

Without a doubt, one of the main purposes of your presentation is to engage the audience. A great way to do this is to ask questions and use rhetorical questions. Whenever someones hears the intonation of a question, their brain automatically wants to answer which means that person is paying attention. And attention is exactly what we want when we’re speaking.

I came across a great video the other day called ‘Rhetorical Questions for Public Speaking by Alex Lyon who is a communication  coach and someone I follow on YouTube so I thought I’d highlight the main points for you in this post.

Alex gives us six tips on how to use rhetorical questions effectively.

1, Keep your rhetorical questions short, simple and formed in a way that’s easy to follow. When we’re presenting we need to avoid complexity at all costs and it’s the same here. So avoid complexity by using simple language in your questions and also by making sure the questions are straightforward; don’t use ‘quiz’ questions that appear to be testing people’s knowledge, for example, “Do you know who was President of this country in 1980?”

2. Ask questions that pique people’s curiousity and that are relevant to their lives and experience. Alex Lyon refers to these questions as ones that add value. An example of this is a question such as “What do teenagers really care about?”

3. Pose questions that you and your audience can answer (although they might need some time to think about it). And always ANSWER a question, even though you might leave that answer to the end of your presentation to create suspense. If you decide to use this technique, make sure you tell the audience you’re going to answer the question at the end otherwise it can be unsettling for some audience members and may distract them from paying full attention to you.

4. One strategy is to ask three questions in a row at certain places in your presentation to build momentum and to emphasise a particular point. Ensure the questions are related to each other and that each one builds on the last. For example, “Who here feels there aren’t enough hours in the day”? “Why do you think that is?” What can we do about it?” Pause between each question to give the audience time to assimilate them. A set of three questions like this would be ideal to open a presentation about time management for example. One point to note about this strategy however, is not to overdo it if your presentation is quite short.

5. Ask a rhetorical questions in a various places in your presentation. Spread them out to add interest. You might want to think about asking a question for each main point you’re going to make.

6. And remember, although the definition of a rhetorical question is that you don’t expect an answer, it IS OK for your audience to answer because that means they are totally engaged with your content…

And wasn’t that the reason you’re incorporating all these rhetorical questions in the first place? To engage your audience?

For more examples on how to adopt these six tips, check out Alex Lyon’s video here


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My mission is to help employees in multinational companies learn the skills and techniques they need to give outstanding presentations in English and receive the visibility and recognition they deserve.

feel confident and engage with your audience Janice Haywood