How to Ask Open-Ended Questions: 20 Examples

March 15, 2023/5 mins min read
Open-ended blog

The ability to ask well-structured open-ended questions is important as they can help us to draw out well-thought-out and considered opinions and perspectives from individuals and groups. It’s certainly a skill anyone can develop, especially leaders seeking to create an open culture that focuses on both coaching and support.

Open-ended questions do more for you than just gathering simple answers, they provide employees, students, colleagues, or whoever they may be directed with, the opportunity to delve deep with their responses and voice what is really on their minds.

What is an open-ended question?

Open-ended questions start with “Why?” “How?” and “What?” They encourage a full answer, rather than the simple “yes” or “no” response that is usually given to a closed-ended question. 

Not only are these questions designed to elicit a longer and more detailed response, but they, likewise, ask the respondent to take extra time to consider what is being asked of them and what they should say. 

Think of it this way; open-ended questions are for gathering insights rather than just answers.

Open-ended vs closed-ended questions

These two types of questions work well when combined as not every question needs a long and detailed response, while others don’t require a great deal of thinking or consideration.

Closed-ended questions will, as previously mentioned, have a “yes” or “no” response. They may also feature a series of other predetermined responses (Options A, B, C for example). So let’s sum it up this way:

Open-ended questions 

  • Usually started with “How”, “Why”, and “What”
  • Have no set or predetermined answers
  • Requires response to explain

Closed-ended questions

  • Have some form of predetermined answers
  • They usually feature a “Yes / No” response

Open-ended question examples

Open-ended questions for team meetings

  1. How do you think we could improve these meetings?
  2. What do you think are the best and worst parts of these meetings and why?
  3. If you were to run a meeting one week, what would you do?
  4. What does a good team meeting consist of?
  5. How would you compare our team meetings to others at the company? 

Open-ended questions for company surveys

  1. How would you describe our working culture?
  2. What would you do to improve productivity?
  3. What would you think if we moved to a four-day working week?
  4. How would you feel if we were to change our benefits package?
  5. What could we do to improve employee retention?

Open-ended questions for brainstorming sessions

  1. How would you approach this problem?
  2. What do you think is the best solution?
  3. What is the best way to gather ideas?
  4. How do you feel about our current ways of working?
  5. What are the most important things when it comes to brainstorming?

Open-ended questions for classroom discussions

  1. How would you describe school to others?
  2. What would you do if you were a teacher for a day?
  3. If you could study only one subject, what would you pick and why?
  4. How could we improve the school day?
  5. Should school be five days per week and why?   

What makes a good open-ended question?

Ok so now that we know exactly what makes up an open-ended question, and what they are not, let’s see what makes a good one. 

A genuine interest in the response and a legitimate curiosity will help you to create open-ended questions that are meaningful and will help you to reach your goal or get the information you need. When writing your questions, spend time thinking about what you would like to know from your respondents.

Generally, questions that start with “what” are good, non-biased open-ended questions. For example “What did you think of today’s workshop?” or “What would you like to learn more about?” allow the respondent to answer without being influenced by the person asking the question.

Both of these examples also use verbs that focus on people’s thoughts and emotions - to think and to like’: this can be a great way to structure open-ended questions as these types of verbs force the respondent to answer in a more considered way. Other verbs that work well in this context are ‘to want’, ‘to believe’, and ‘to feel’. 

Pro tip: While “why” questions are open-ended, they can often trigger a defensive answer from the respondent. For example “Why did you do that?” sounds accusatory, whereas “What did you use as the basis of your decision?” does not. 

When to use open-ended questions

What is great about open-ended questions is that they can be run just as effectively in a live setting as they can when included as part of a self-paced survey. Including these as part of a survey can help you get nice background information as to why responses look the way they do and why trends may be appearing.

As mentioned before, they are best utilized when you want your audience or group to really think deeply about a certain topic or matter. They can be great when you are looking to kickstart a debate or discussion, or if you want to pick up on an answer and ask people to expand on it. 

Open-ended questions are thus a great way to boost participation and engagement.  


Q: How can I transition from closed-ended to open-ended questions in discussions? A: Start by incorporating "why," "how," and "what" into your questions. Encourage elaboration by asking follow-up questions based on initial responses to gradually shift towards a more open-ended questioning style.

Q: What strategies can encourage hesitant participants to respond to open-ended questions? A: Create a supportive environment that values all contributions, use icebreakers to warm up the group, and directly encourage quiet participants by asking for their opinions or experiences related to the topic.

Q: How can the effectiveness of open-ended questions be assessed? A: Measure engagement levels, the depth of responses, and the diversity of ideas presented. Post-discussion feedback can also provide insights into how participants felt about the questioning approach.

Q: How can I ensure open-ended questions are not too broad? A: Focus your questions on specific aspects of a topic and provide a clear context. Adjust the scope based on the group's familiarity with the subject to ensure the questions are neither too broad nor too narrow.

Q: Does cultural context affect open-ended questions? A: Yes, cultural nuances can influence how questions are perceived and answered. Tailor your questions to be culturally sensitive and consider the communication styles of your audience to ensure your questions are effective and respectful.

The complete guide on how and when to use open-ended questions

Not only will Mentimeter’s open-ended questions help you put into practice everything you have just read here in this blog - but you will also be able to create full surveys and presentations with a minimal amount of time and hassle.

Our presentations and surveys are designed to promote interaction and engagement so are the perfect way to gather all that thought-provoking feedback your open-ended questions will doubtlessly provide.

To get started just follow the link below and get ready to improve your presentations right away.

See how you can add open-ended questions and plenty more to your next survey!

Learn more about Mentimeter surveys

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