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Question Opener


Techniques Public speaking > Parts of the Presentation > Question Opener

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



To open a presentation in a way that grabs attention, ask a powerful question. Opener questions are not just any questions like 'did you enjoy lunch?' but are engineered to make the audience really sit up and think.

The answer to the opener question should not be obvious, although it can appear to be obvious, for example you might ask 'Are you generally happy?' and then ask 'Are you ecstatically happy? Are you doing anything to get happier? In fact most people are happy enough, a concept which I am going to explore today.'

Some of the types of Opener Questions you can use include:

  • Memory questions: Can you remember the names of Snow White's Seven Dwarfs?
  • Knowledge questions: How do you perfectly boil an egg?
  • Identity questions: Would you say you are mostly honest?
  • Opinion questions: Do you think the government is doing a good job?
  • Action question: Can you all please close your eyes, just for a moment?
  • Cascaded questions: Do you give to charity? Would anyone give the contents of their wallet or purse now to Oxfam? What if it would save the life of the child in this picture?
  • Fear questions: Are your children totally safe right now?
  • Greed questions: Who wants this sack of cash I have right here? Hands up!


Is there anybody here from Canada? Do you sometimes feel a bit alone here? Isn't it strange how you can speak the same language and yet be so different?


Opener questions are often rhetorical, not seeking an actual answer but are just spoken with the purpose of making people think in a way that you want them to think.

Opener questions are excellent devices to introduce your subject, as you can illustrate the problem or topic within them and then answer the conundrum or expose the underlying questions within the main speech.

A danger with opening questions is that somebody might try to answer it, be 'clever' or otherwise derail your talk. A good approach is to utilize their energy, for example by praising their challenge and saying you will address their point later.

You can bracket a talk by starting with a question and then end up indicating how you have answered your opening question.

See also

Questioning techniques


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