Insights + tips

Should you use rhetorical questions to start your presentation?

“You should always start your presentation with a rhetorical question.”

Yesterday, during a session, I was helping some delightful professionals become more compelling, credible, and confident in their presentations. One of them mentioned they had received the above advice and asked for my opinion.

My response? Show me any ‘rule’ in presenting, and I’ll show you a professional speaker who breaks it.

While there are useful guidelines, rules of thumb, and helpful techniques that often work in presentations, the key is flexibility.

Always approach your presentation with your goal and audience in mind. What are you trying to achieve, and how will you achieve that with *this* specific audience?

Different audiences have different preferences. Some prefer brief, punchy messages, while others like detailed ones. Some enjoy intriguing, provocative openings, while others want you to get straight to the point. Are rhetorical questions sometimes effective? Absolutely. Should you always start with one? Absolutely not.

Bad communicators think: ‘What do I want to say, and what’s the best way to say it?

Great communicators think: ‘Who is my audience, and what do they need to hear from me to get the result I want?

The second approach allows for flexibility and dynamism, using whatever tools and techniques necessary to achieve the goal.

If there’s one ‘rule’ I stand by, it’s this: anyone who tells you there are ‘rules’ in presenting should probably be ignored. Chances are, they haven’t done much presenting themselves.

Hope this gives you something to think about as you craft your next presentation!

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