I’ve witnessed several workshops/keynotes/speaking gigs in the last few weeks that have had a bunch of “checking in” questions.  You know the type:

  • Are you with me?
  • You follow me?
  • Right?
  • Does that make sense?
  • Is everybody doing OK?

and the cricket inducing

  • Any questions?

We had a corollary of this sort of thing before with questions of understanding.  They’re all cut from the same cloth.  And in the talks I witnessed, they happened DOZENS of times in a short span.

Two main problems:

  1. There is no real answer to the question. 

    What do we realistically expect our audiences to do when asked such questions?  Stop us and shout out, “No, I’ve been dozing for some time now.  Could you repeat everything you said since ‘OK, let’s get started.’’”?  This is further exacerbated (OK, my day is complete – I used the word exacerbated) by the fact that none of the speakers I watched gave any time to actually answer the question.  This is probably because aren’t really interested if the audience is with them.  It’s just a filler pause as they collect their thoughts.  And thus should be eliminated entirely.  Are you with me?


  2. We should already know the answer.

    Shouldn’t we already know if the audience is with us?  If we as speakers are even marginally tuned in to our audience, we should see the curious looks, the confused expressions, and the dozing off.  When that happens, it’s up to us to engage them.  GOOD questions are one way.  But simple delivery skills and a change of tone, position, or rate could do the trick. 

If you need to check in with the audience, or have them check in with you, by all means do it.  But do it in a way that engages them, not just makes them feel that they’re dumb if they can’t keep up.  And if the questions repeats more than twice, it’s probably not a real question at all, but just filler and a bad habit we should eliminate.

Ask questions for understanding, not answer-less questions that are really just pauses in disguise.

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