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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Questioning Techniques

In groups of 30 or fewer people, these are techniques for questioning:

  • Name response—make eye contact, call the person by name, and ask a question;

  • Delayed name response—ask a question of the whole group, then call on a person by name;

  • Boomerang—someone in the group asks a question and you redirect it to the whole meeting group or a specific person;

  • Back-at-you—rephrase a question asked and direct it back to the person who asked.

Try to use names, rather than "Hey, you!" in essence. Use name tents or a seating chart, something to personalize your meeting.

In larger groups, more than 30, encourage short answers and hint at an answer to get people involved:

  • Fill-in-the-blanks—Ask a question of the entire group, such as "What is the customer service goal for our company?" or, "What is our mission in business?" You can also ask for a show of hands on an issue.

  • Multiple choice—Ask a question and supply two or three alternatives for the participants, such as, "How many acres of land in the public domain exist in America? 10,000, 100,000, 100,000,000?" Make eye contact with one person for each answer provided and use your arm to gesture to the whole group;

  • Ask-and-answer—Ask a question of the whole group, pause, then answer it yourself, such as, "How many CEOs own stock in the corporations they manage? (Pause.) Would you believe percent?"

Avoid asking, "Are there any questions?" PLAN your questions and make them interesting to participants. Good questions help people understand and remember meeting content.

In answering questions from the audience, make sure they know there will be no ridicule or sarcasm in the answer. Never do or say anything to make questioners feel stupid or foolish. Ask for questions on specific statements or ideas just covered: "Do you have questions on step three of the implementation schedule?" If no one has a question, but there really should be some to avoid misunderstanding, say, "One of the most frequent questions at this stage is _____." Then the attendees understand that you really want them to ask questions. When you are asked a question, repeat it for the sake of those who didn't hear. This helps focus attention on the question and lets the questioner know the query is important.

Common answering mistakes include:

  1. Answering too much. Keep answers short and concise. Long answers shut the attendees' responses down. The idea is for them to talk, not you.

  2. Answering too soon. Interrupting speakers because you know what they are going to say is rude. Allow the group time to think of their responses. A pause or silence just says they are thinking about the question.

  3. Answering one person and continuing a dialogue. The rest of the people lose interest when this goes on too long. Offer to talk further after the meeting, break eye contact, and move on.

Now that the leader role in decision making has been detailed, gaining consensus has been outlined, and questioning has been thoroughly considered, what else is needed in decision-making meetings? In problem solving, a problem is identified and analyzed. In decision making, criteria establishment is first, before leaders and groups can evaluate alternatives and decide on a plan of action. Implementation of the plan, assigning tasks and responsibilities, and scheduling will not be discussed here. These will vary considerably among organizations with different operating procedures.

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