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Questions To Ask The Art of Asking Questions

Mum and son recording a story together

If you spend time with kids, you’ll know a lot about questions – “but whyyy?” Sound familiar? It’s by asking questions that we learn about the world. Questions allow us to have conversations, form relationships and solve problems. 

How do authors write biographies? They ask questions – and a whole lot of them. Why? Because questions encourage the subject to look at their life from a different perspective. Questions help us delve a little deeper. 

At Memwah, we use the art of questioning to make storytelling easy. We provide questions for you or your loved one to answer, but we also encourage you to ask your own! Great questions elicit great responses. 

Here are some tips on asking the right questions and unearthing the best stories. 

Ask open-ended questions 

Want longer, more thoughtful responses? Make sure you ask open-ended questions for your storyteller to answer. Open-ended questions are questions that don’t elicit a “yes” or “no” response. 

Open-ended questions generally start with “What”, “How”, “Why” or “Tell me about”. These types of questions will encourage your storyteller to elaborate, which means you’ll get a better answer!

Example: “Tell me about you and mum’s first date.”

Group questions in categories

Memwah allows you to record answers up to two minutes long. So for longer stories, it’s best to group your questions into categories. 

Categories give you an opportunity to ask multiple questions about the same topic. They also give your storyteller time to warm up and recall more information. 

“Tell me about your wedding.” 
“What do you remember most about it?”
“What was your favourite moment during it?”

Use the funnelling technique 

Have you ever noticed how interviewers tend not to ask controversial questions straight off the bat? This is called the funnelling technique. You start with general questions first and get more specific as you go. 

The funnelling technique gives you the opportunity to learn more about your storyteller by getting down to details. These questions often reveal parts of their personality you may have not been aware of before. 

“What’s your favourite game to play?”
“What do you like about it?”
“Why do you love running around?”

Ask about the information you already know 

The great thing about asking your loved ones questions is that you already know quite a bit about their lives. This can lead to a great story. 

Think of all the things that make your relative or friend tick. Perhaps they eat at the same restaurant every month, or they only wear the colour blue. There’s usually a story behind their interests or quirks. It’s your job to unlock them. 

Example: “You always used to play that one particular song in the car. What does that song mean to you?”

Elevate your questions

Your questions don’t all have to be about a storyteller’s memory – not directly anyway. You can ask about their thoughts and feelings on broader topics. 

In Harvard Business Review, Tom Pohlmann and Neethi Mary Thomas write, “Elevating questions raise broader issues and highlight the bigger picture. They help you zoom out.”

Elevated questions encourage your storyteller to view the world from a different perspective. This not only gives your audience a better insight into your loved one’s personality, but it colours their story with cultural and historical context. 

Example: “How have views on the environment changed since you were young?”

Make the most of Memwah’s questions

Still feeling stuck on what to ask? We’ve done the hard work for you! Each Memwah category comes with suggested questions. You can also browse questions to ask here. 

Ready to record your story?

Video storytelling was never that easy. Add as many questions as you want and start telling your story now.

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Tammie Winward

Tammie Winward

Founder, Memwah

Is on a mission to let people know they matter. She firmly believes that every story deserves to be heard and is dedicated to ensuring that no tale goes untold.