I recently had the CEO of a company to provide advice to him. At an industry conference, a consultant would be presenting key trends research. The CEO would then have conference participants discuss the information at their tables. He wrote:

I believe the appropriate question(s) to pose for discussion purposes are, “What does this data mean for your business? Opportunities? Challenges?”

I took the opportunity to introduce to him the power of effective directions and the secret of the starting question.

First thought: The questions are good leading ones indeed. Assuming that your end point is for people to answer: “What are you going to do differently based on this information?” I would likely break the flow of the questions this way:

  • What are the most significant insights you see in this information?
  • What might you do in your business to take advantage of these insights?

It also might make it easier for participants if you let them know, before the presentation, what you are going to ask them to do after the presentation.

By the way, we call the two questions above “Type As” because they ask what you – the facilitator – wants to know. One of the most important things we teach in our facilitation class is the power of transforming these Type As into Type Bs. The key difference is that Type B questions give people an image of their answers and this makes it ultra easy for people to begin responding right away and avoids that very awkward “silence.”

So, prior to the person presenting your PowerPoint deck might show the questions as written, and you would tell them, “As you listen to this presentation, you might want to jot down the key insights and what your organization might do with them.”

Then, after the presentation, you might put the questions back up, and then your directions and your type B question might sound something like the following.


“At your tables, I would like for you to take 10 minutes to share first the insights you heard and then the things your organization might do about them. I am going to ask the person from your table sitting closest to me to be the table coordinator, speak first, and help ensure everyone else gets at least one opportunity to speak over the 10 minutes. Table coordinators you should also select someone from the table to take about 30 seconds to share one or two insights from the table. So once more 10 minutes as a group and then 1 person to give the 30 second presentation of one or two thoughts from your table.”

Type B Question (Start with image builder, extend, ask direct question)

“So think about the specific things in the presentation that stood out to you, the key insights you heard, the things you felt could have a tremendous impact on your organization. What are the most significant insights you see in this information and what might you do about it? Table coordinators, get it started…”

Of course there are many other ways to engage the participants. But however you do it, we believe it is important to be very clear with directions and use your type B questions.

To learn more about facilitation skills, consider our course, The Effective Facilitator.  The four-day course provides a structured approach for leading teams and facilitating meetings and covers over 100 techniques for getting amazing results from groups.