The Wrong Questions to Ask As a Speaker

Speaking with students at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan

What’s wrong with asking your audience the following question?

“What is standing between you and your goal?”

The problem with that question is you are basically telling your audience there’s something standing between them and their goal. You’re assuming. Some of your audience members might think, “You don’t know me. Why are you telling me I have something in the way of my goal?”

Always keep this in mind:

Audience members don’t want to be told about themselves, but they do want to be asked.

However, we must ask without assuming.

Make That Change

How can you change the question so that you’re not telling them about themselves and possibly offending them?

3 Quick Fixes

  • You can use “if any” or “if anything.” For example, you can ask, “What, if anything, is standing between you and your goal?”


  • You can use “most people” or “many people.” For example, you can ask, “What do you think is the number 1 thing that stands between most people and their goals?”


  • You can ask a qualifying question first. For example, “Is there anything standing between you and your goal?” Once they nod their heads, you can ask, “What is it?”


How can you phrase your questions to get as much response as possible?

As a speaker, we want to get as many heads nodding yes as we possibly can when we ask our questions. You can do this by starting your question with “Have you ever…?”

For example, you might ask the following question: “Do you feel like you want to change your job?” If I ask the question that way, I’ll likely get a small percentage of my audience to nod their heads. Why? Because they might not feel that way at that moment.

However, if I ask, “Have you ever felt like you wanted to change your job?” I’ll likely get almost everybody to nod their heads and that’s what I want. Why? Because, chances are, they felt that way at some point in their lives.

Quick Example Of Using Questions to Create an Experience

Use questions but make sure you ask them in the most inclusive and effective ways. Here’s a quick example of using requests and questions to go beyond a speech to creating an experience.

For more ideas on how you can go beyond giving a speech to creating an amazing experience for your audience, visit

Craig Valentine

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