How to Draw Out a Speaker with Probing Questions

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One of the key duties of a meeting facilitator is to make sure participants' ideas are understood by everyone. Probing with questions is a listening tool you can use to draw out and add depth to the speaker's message. By asking open-ended questions, you can move the speaker beyond short answers and help him reveal more details about his topic.

Open-ended questions often begin with words like what, how, tell me, describe, and explain. Here are examples:

  • What are the key findings of your report?

  • How did you come to the conclusions mentioned in the report?

  • Tell me more about the idea you think will help the team.

  • Please describe an example to illustrate your point.

  • Please explain your thinking behind this recommendation.

When asking a speaker for these responses, you shouldn't lead the speaker toward answering in a prescribed way but rather toward communicating freely. In other words, open-ended questions have no right or wrong answers.

When you probe, you're being inquisitive. You're not conducting an inquisition or interrogation!

[Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/mediaphotos]
Credit: Photo © iStockphoto.com/mediaphotos

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