On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I took my son and his friends (all over 21 years old) to a comedy club where I saw a comedian use a seamless technique to get the audience involved his routine. Any business presenter can use the same technique–without having to be funny.
It comes down to this, a technique all good comedians and trial lawyers use: ask leading questions—all while the audience thinks you are just having a conversation.
How the Leading Question Technique Works
Step 1: Establish the topic.
The comedian at one point in his routine took a pause, a sip of water—giving a natural break to the flow of his delivery—and then mentioned casually that he had been on a cruise recently.
Step 2: Ask a leading question.
Before he delved into the topic, he asked the audience, “Who here has ever been on a cruise?”
Hands up everywhere.
“What cruise line?”
People shouted out a few names of cruise lines, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Viking. The comedian made short comments on each.
“Oh, Mr. Fancy.”
“Never been to Norway. Never going either.”
“I’m more of a Packers fan myself.”
Step 3: Use a specific answer to bridge to your topic.
Someone in the audience mentioned Carnival Cruise lines. And the comedian dove in. “And do you know why they call it Carnival? Because it is a $%#&ing carnival…” And off he went on a five minute bit about his cruise on a Carnival Cruise line.
He made the entire exchange seem random, but there was nothing random about it.
His bit was about Carnival Cruise Lines. He could have just jumped in and done the bit. Instead, he made it seem like it flowed out of a casual conversation with the audience.
Every business presenter can do the same thing. The technique turns a presentation into a conversation without the presenter losing control.
Three Parts of the Leading Question Technique
- A target topic
- A leading question
- A specific answer that would lead him into his target topic–I call this the trigger answer
How to Use the Leading Question Technique in a Business Presentation
- Establish the topic
- Ask a leading question
- Use the specific answer, the trigger answer, to flow into the target material.
Instead of just launching into the topic or into a topic within your presentation, set it up with a leading question. Here is an example:
The target topic: evaluating employees.
Trigger answer to flow into target material: A waste of time.
Leading question: What are the biggest frustrations you run into when you do your employee evaluations?
Rather than just open the presentation, or that portion of the presentation, by diving into what you want to say about employee evaluations, you open with the leading question:
“How many of you have found yourself confused over which of your employees is bringing real value to your business?”
After a show of hands, ask, “How many of you feel even more frustrated after doing employee evaluations?”
More hands go up.
“What are some of the frustrations you feel?”
As the answers come, you comment briefly.
Audience member: “Employees usually overestimate themselves.”
You: “So true.”
Audience member: “The questions seem forced.”
You: “Kind of like being on a first date.”
Audience member: “It’s one more thing to do that I don’t have time for.” Ding, ding, ding, ding. That’s the trigger answer! You take that answer and segue right into what you intended to talk about in the first place.
You: “And that’s the biggest underlying problem with employee evaluations. They waste time we don’t have…” And off you go diving into the topic.
That entire exchange takes only a minute or two but it does a few valuable things:
- It creates audience involvement.
- It transforms a presentation into a conversation.
- It makes it seem like the audience played an important role instead of a passive role in revealing your content.
Give it a Try
- Pick the main topic of your next presentation.
- Ask a leading question to your audience that leads in the general direction of that content.
- Comment briefly on the answers the audience gives.
- Use the trigger answer to flow into your content.
You will get to the same destination using the leading question technique, but by including them, the audience members will feel like you shared an experience with them instead of just talking at them.
Okay, your turn. Leave me a comment with a topic and a leading question and the trigger answer you’re looking for. And unless you’re a professional comedian, don’t even get started with the jokes!