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Imagine this happening to you…you’re giving a presentation and when you ask your listeners for questions you get complete silence. Okay, maybe not your worst public speaking fear but clearly this is up there as a concern.  The sounds of silence can occur whether you’re presenting in-person or virtually but for this post let’s address the latter.

First, it helps to know that there are several possible reasons for the sounds of silence (some of which are in your control) so let’s tackle that issue.

  1. Audience members have no interest in your topic.
  2. People are only attending because it’s mandatory for them to do so.
  3. Your topic is too high-level and somewhat inappropriate for this audience.
  4. Some members of your audience have a language barrier that you’re unaware of.
  5. People don’t want to go first and therefore are waiting for someone else to start.
  6. Individuals may have an inherent fear of public speaking.
  7. Attendees don’t like hearing the sound of their own voice.
  8. Participants don’t know the correct vehicle for responding that is expected of them.
  9. Audience isn’t as familiar with the technology for the particular platform you’re using.
  10. The question you posed lacks sufficient clarity and therefore people don’t really understand what is being asked of them.

These are a few of the reasons you may wish to consider for getting the sounds of silence. To assist you with solutions, here are some of my recommendations (for virtual presentations):

  • Send instructions (to attendees) in advance for responding; briefly review those instructions at the start of your presentation especially if your email wasn’t received or opened.
  • Get members of your audience involved in responding right at the outset vs. delaying this behavior.
  • Ask simple questions such as: Where are you from? What’s your role? What’s your favorite color?
  • Be specific in your directions such as: Please answer yes” or no in the chat box or Please raise your electronic hand to verbally respond.
  • Strive to be concise vs. longwinded.
  • Review information that may be confusing.
  • Repeat information that may be unclear.
  • Avoid putting anyone on the spot by posing a question directly to them.
  • Be sure to liberally thank participants for offering their comments or questions.
  • Have some sample questions that you can provide to set an example.

These ten ideas will give you a good head start if you want to avoid the sounds of silence. If you’d like to discuss your presentation, you’re welcome to call or write me at 518-664-6004 or dale@profitablespeech.com