It’s the end of the presentation, the speaker just finished talking and has opened the floor for questions and everything turns silent.
Why don’t more people ask questions?
Is it because they understood everything there is to understand about the topic? Or perhaps they weren’t listening and didn’t even know what the speaker was going on about?
Perhaps they don’t want to stand out and risk looking stupid for asking the wrong question. Or perhaps they simply don’t care?
Here’s what I think, you should ask questions. Any questions. Doesn’t matter how stupid it is. Heck, you can even borrow this question from Neil Gaiman.
I’m thinking of a number between 1…and a lot. What number am I thinking?
Ridiculous, I know. Stupid even. But you know what? It loosens everyone up and gets them laughing. I did something similar in a corporate meeting before (and no, it wasn’t about mid-life crisis) and it really helped with the mood.
But in all seriousness, you should ask a question. Give a scenario and ask for the speaker’s opinion, ask for more details about something the speaker mentioned in passing, ask the speaker the what/why/how behind the idea, ask for examples or case studies, ask for advice on how to do something or what would help in certain situations, doesn’t matter what your question is. Just ask.
It shows that you care, that you were listening, that you were engaging, that you gave the topic proper thought and consideration, that you have something to say about it, and that the presentation isn’t a huge waste of time.
Besides, what do you think is the speaker’s worst nightmare? Battling with stage fright is challenging enough already, but a dead reaction from the audience? Ouch, might as well go talk to a wall, at least walls don’t judge.