What inspirational speakers have in common with Socrates

| October 5, 2017 | 0 Comments


It’s one thing to deliver a great speech, it’s quite another to deliver a speech that is inspirational.

Public speakers need to be able to articulate themselves, but they can also look need to look at ways to encourage their audience to engage and fully understand their subject matter. One way to do that is through well-placed questions.

It’s an art mastered by early Greek philosopher Socrates – whose approach to questioning was based upon practiced and very well thought-through dialogue.

He used questions a lot of the time to engage in the debates that his audience were having. He would then point out and show them the flaws in their ways of thinking.

This wasn’t a way of judging people’s thinking. Rather, it aimed to help them with their understandings and delve deeper into learning.

Getting the audience to think for themselves whilst you are speaking means that they will remember what you’ve told them and have a richer experience. Here is how all inspirational speakers can learn from the lessons of Socrates all these years on and adopt a questioning approach.

Use clarification questioning – asking questions such as:

  • What does that mean?
  • What do you think?
  • How does this relate to my question?

In a discussion or argument these questions get your audience thinking for themselves more. It encourages them to think really hard about what you have said and make their own assumptions on what it means. These open up a discussion and encourage you to delve into the detail.

Reasoning questioning – this is where you drill down and explore the rationale behind an idea. If a member or a group from the audience is giving logical answers for their side of the argument, understand that reasoning by asking:

  • What evidence do you have to support this?
  • What do you think has caused this?

This is good to use when a question is tricky to answer and to see if there is any fault or not in someone’s logic.

Assumptions – you will want to be asking questions that challenge what the audience might be assuming. This makes the audience questions any preconceptions that they may have held and forces them to be open to new ideas.

Questioning viewpoints – before your talk you will want to expand the range of possibilities for the audience. Build arguments for your own information and ways of doing that is by asking:

  • What other ways can we look at this?
  • What’s the counter argument?
  • How would an outsider view this?

Implications – questions such has:

  • What would happen if?
  • How can we use this to help us?
  • Why is this important?

Take conversations towards conclusions and this is where you can round everything up. They can be a useful way to end your talk – or might prompt a post-talk discussion or debate.

Socratic questioning can really help you to connect with your audience during public speaking and will question traditional perspectives. Try it out and see how much it changes your talks.


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