Does That Make Sense?

As a Program Leader and senior manager on our program development team, I love staying in touch with past participants and helping them continue to use the Decker tools they’ve learned in the ‘real world.’

Recently, we received the following question:

I recently noticed that many speakers continually say to their audience, “Does that make sense?” or “I hope that makes sense.” What is your analysis of this? Is it effective?

So here’s the answer.

There are a few issues with this phrase.

  1. It’s just filler words: In some cases, speakers use this phrase as a filler, a transitional phrase. They’re using it to buy time. When they do it a lot….
  2. It can feel condescending: It’s as if the audience isn’t going to get the content anyway, so it’s better to ask ahead of time to make sure they can follow along. This is how it felt to our questioner in the meeting she attended that brought this question to our inbox.
  3. It feels disingenuous: It’s a question posed without any desire for an answer. The speaker is really just asking the question to get validation and affirmation that they are on the right track. They aren’t asking a question to really clarify with the audience at all.

If you actually want to check in with your audience to see if they have questions, here’s a better way to ask: “Any questions on the material so far?” Pause to check in periodically and to let your audience respond. We do this all the time in our programs between modules or after a hefty section.

If you really want to hear from your audience, be directive. Ask them to offer their opinions. There are a lot of ways to phrase this. But here are a couple examples:

  • “These are my perceptions/thoughts. I’m curious, what do you think?” 
  • “Have we missed anything? What would you add?”

If you tend to ‘”check in” with your audience without really expecting an answer, try one of the tactics above to leave your listeners feeling heard and understood.

Have another idea of how to engage an audience? We want to hear it in a comment below!

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