“How did it go?” – A Simple Question With Multiple Meanings!

Asking “How did it go?” is a common question used in American English, and at work. This kind of question could be in relation to work related tasks or small talk. 
When to ask, how to answer?

Task-Based Examples: 
“So team, how did the product launch go?” 
“How did the meeting with the client go?” 
“How did your presentation go?” 

Small-Talk Examples:  
“How did your vacation go?” 
“How did the Christmas party go?” 
“How did your new car buying experience go?” 

Events asked in questions like this often have taken considerable planning or forethought to carry out. Asking for the outcome in this way also has a subtle meaning of ‘encouragement’ or ‘empathy’ that you just completed something challenging or taxing and we, as the asker, want to know how the final outcome was. (Typically with the hope that it is a positive outcome.)

Contrary to the belief that this is a direct question for Americans, for those not familiar with American English expressions, this question is idiomatic in my opinion. This kind of question is not direct, it’s not easy to translate into another language, and it requires context, hindsight, and answering to the point.

Here is an example of a “task-based” question and example answers:
“How did your client call go?”
What this question really means: The asker wants to know what was the outcome of the call after putting a lot of time into planning the call due to it’s critical nature.
A bad answer: “The call went as we discussed it. I talked about all the points we planned for.”
A good answer: “The call went well. I was able to apply all the points we discussed. I was able to convince the client to go with our solution.”
Best answer: “The preparation paid off! The client has been convinced. We have scheduled a meeting for next Tuesday, September 5 at 8am to sign the contract.”

Here is an example of a “small talk-based” question and example answers:
“How did your vacation go?”
What this question really means: I know that your vacation to this new place was something that you have been planning for many months, that took a lot of coordination as well as it was expensive. Was the time, money and effort put into it worth the effort? Did you have fun? What did you do? (Yes, that simple question can mean all of that!)
A bad answer: The vacation was good.
A bad answer: The plans went as we discussed earlier. It was good.
A better answer: The plans went as we discussed and everyone had a good time. I’d do it again.
The best answer: Yes, remember we spoke about some of the coordination of the travel arrangements. Although we were worried about completing all the activities, everything went off fine. In fact, it was better than fine! We really enjoyed our vacation and were able to take part in all of the activities you helped me identify like Zorbing, going on a ZipLine and seeing the main viewpoints in the Smoky Mountains, including Cades Cove. We also visited Cades Cove early in the morning as you suggested so I could take some nice sunrise photos. Overall, it was a great trip, well planned and really want to do it again!
(It also depends on the tone these messages are given. Put some excitement into it!)

Tips on answering “How did it go?” questions
Remember that the answer is based on past conversations and context with the speaker. The speaker essentially wants to know the outcome. It’s perfectly fine to give details. A “How did it go?” question can include all of the below questions:
  • “Based on our previous conversations about this, I know you were nervous about it… how do you feel about it now?” (Feelings or thoughts can be expressed directly or by the tone of voice.)
  • “Did it happen as planned? Was it better than expected?”
  • "What was the outcome?"
  • "How did it impact others?”
  • “Would you do this again? Why? What went well?”
  • “Would you suggest me to do this, too?”
  • “What was the summary or highlight of the event being asked about?”

Feel free to provide examples of “How did it go?” questions below in the comments section along with sample answers.

Jennifer Kumar is a corporate communication coach facilitating clearer communication and understanding between Indians and their US counterparts. See the Authentic Journeys website or contact her today.

Related Posts:
Common Questions in American English
Listening Exercises for Understanding American English
Sounds Good – What does “sounds good” mean?

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