How many times a week are you in a meeting and the person presenting asks the group, “Any questions?” And how many times do they get crickets (silence) in return? If you’re like me, it happens almost every day. We’re almost numb to it.

It’s the first thing I notice when I’m working with frustrated leaders who complain that it’s hard to get people to speak up. “Any questions?” almost never works. Here’s why:

It’s too broad. Any questions about what exactly? It’s hard to answer, so people don’t speak up.

You’re not really interested. "Any questions?" is perfunctory and it doesn't send the message that you're really curious. Plus, it's usually posed at the end of the meeting when everyone is ready to leave.

It doesn’t require people to really think. If nothing comes to mind, people stay silent.

The way you phrase a question influences how much and what kind of information you receive. Questions that start with 'How', 'What', or 'Why' tend to spark a dialogue while questions that begin with 'Is', 'Did', 'Can', or 'Will' results in one word answers.

Here are 10 alternatives to "Any Questions?”:

  • What’s resonating with you so far?
  • Tell me what you know already.
  • What are you most curious about?
  • Describe your experience with this issue.
  • How do you think this will work?
  • What’s your understanding of the situation?
  • What do you feel is the root cause of . . .?
  • From your standpoint, what are some of the factors we should be considering?
  • What do you see as the greatest [challenge, barrier, opportunity, difficulty]?
  • What else should I be asking you?

Therese Miclot is Proteus' Director of Facilitation Excellence. She delivers – and teaches others to deliver – dynamic, interactive, world-class learning experiences.

Proteus and Koppett sets the standard for facilitation excellence. We’ve defined what great facilitators do, so you can assess performance accurately and consistently benchmark with world-class organizations. Our approach supports leaders at all levels with individualized feedback and targeted coaching to expand their range and increase their impact. Proteus International.com