Category “Responding to Questions/Comments”

Give a Second Conclusion

Don’t let your presentation be the victim of the last question that was asked. Be prepared to close again with a second conclusion once the questioning has stopped.

Here’s a true-life example: At the end of my presenting a very important proposal to a company, the audience was arguing among themselves about an issue. Someone told me, “Thank you very much. Dave will escort you out.” But the atmosphere felt a bit aggravated and it felt like a dark cloud was now hanging over the group so I asked, “Before I leave can I tell you a brief story?” They couldn’t really say no. I told them a story, they laughed and then I left the room full of light and positive energy.

Why do this? I wanted their experience with me to end on a positive note, so I decided to finish the meeting in an upbeat manner—ending with the message and tone that I was in control of.

Why should you think about this idea? You give a presentation. The audience asks questions. You say, “Any more questions?” No one responds so you say, “Thank you” and leave or sit down. What if the last question did not set the best tone? Now all the work you did for that presentation is a bit lost due to the way it ended.

Every presenter should have a second conclusion prepared—just in case you need it. A second conclusion can include:

  • Vision for the future
  • Recap of key actions that have been done
  • Recap of key actions to be done in the future
  • Challenge for the group

Create your second conclusion with the focus on ending your presentation with an upbeat, positive and can-do attitude. Your second conclusion sheds light one more time on your messages.

When you add a second conclusion, you end the presentation—or meeting—on the emotional note and focused message of your choosing, not on an audience member’s last question or comment.

PS: Be aware that many meetings do need this second conclusion, whether the questioning was negative or not! It also allows you to have the last and best word on the subject matter.

Answer the Question Asked

What happens to presenters who are nervous when it’s time for questions? Often the presenter is simply too nervous to listen to the query, and just starts talking without providing a specific response. Or the presenter may not address the question at all, instead speaking about something else that is a “hot topic” and defending a particular position. Now the presenter is really in trouble: the questioner did not get an answer and a topic has been brought up that many people were hoping would not have to be discussed.

How do you stop this behavior? First, you must learn to ignore the chatter in your head that is saying:

  • What if I don’t know the answer?
  • That’s not a very good question.
  • The person asking me that question is out to put me down.
  • How dare she ask me that? I know what I’m doing!

This self-defeating internal dialogue prevents you from answering a question concisely and to the point. Instead, you should be saying to yourself:

  • Calm down. You know the subject.
  • People are curious and it’s their job to ask questions. Relax.
  • Answer the question and stop talking. Then ask, Do you need more information about this now?

Here are some other techniques that work, depending on the situation:

  • Sometimes you can rephrase the question a bit and inquire, “Is this what you are asking?” You can also say, “I’m not exactly sure what you are asking. Can you rephrase your question?”
  • Use a lead-in phrase to relax yourself. Try: “Yes, I know that has been a concern of yours.” Or “Yes, we are considering how to handle this particular problem if it occurs. Here is one idea.” Or “Your question deserves two different responses. The first response has to do with how we are working given the state of the project now. The second response has to do with how we will work when we get three new people.”

Finally, to be concise, to-the-point, and brief, you need to practice being asked questions and answering them, out loud.

12 Most Ingenious Ways to Respond to an “Unusual” Idea

Frequently, my clients ask me what to do when someone in the audience brings up an idea that just does not make sense, at least at the moment. They really do not think it is appropriate to say to the person: “I don’t know where you got that idea, but it does not make any sense at all to me….. “ or “I don’t see how anyone in their right mind would think this is a good idea.”
So let’s assume then that the idea does not really sound viable and that you have managed to quell your initial tendencies to summarily dismiss it. How can you use this situation an opportunity to gain support from your audience? Here are some options.

Go for the logic. Stand in the logical way of discussing the idea.

  1. Ask for elaboration: “How do you see that working in this situation?” Let the person give a broader view of how this idea might work. Frequently, you may find the person does not have the view of how it might work in real life. Or the person may really have an idea you just never considered.
  2. Ask for proof: “Where have you seen that working in another situation?” Maybe they know about something you have not yet discovered.
  3. Ask for consequences: “What positive or negative consequences do you see if we go down this path?” You can ask this to the questioner or you can ask this to the audience.
  4. Ask for others to chip in: “How does someone else see this idea—any additions or changes to it that you want to discuss?”
  5. Bring up a goal: “Our goal is x. How do you see this idea getting us to our goal?”
  6. State the “big issue” you see with this idea. “At the moment as I consider this idea, here is one big issue that might occur. Would this be acceptable?”

Go for the “Yes, Maybe” and Feeling

  1. Agree diplomatically: “Yes, that is a possibility. Let’s discuss how we might carry out this idea.” You are sending a positive feeling to the person who brought this up. Most of us like to be agreed with before we are told that our idea may not work.
  2. Agree hesitantly with a feeling reservation: “I’m not sure about this, it doesn’t feel quite right to me but let’s go into more detail and discuss.” Here you are not giving a “yes” right away, but you are sending a message that you want to discuss this more. You are also saying from a feeling standpoint you are not sure about it.
  3. Agree with certain conditions: Add some detail that might make the idea work. For example, you might say: “Well, if you also do x and y, then it might work.” Then discuss whether it makes sense to do x and y.

Go for the opinions

  1. State your opinion: “In my opinion this will not work, but let me suspend that and let’s discuss.”
  2. Ask for person’s opinion: “In your opinion, do you believe we could really do this and make it work?”
  3. Ask the group’s opinion: “Let me ask the group. What are your opinions about this working”?

These responses help you establish an open commutation channel. You don’t want anyone to lose face.You don’t want to come off as dogmatic and not open to ideas. Use the opinion questions to separate the facts from the opinions. Be open because what sounds like a lousy idea can sometimes turn into a really good idea. The way to be open is to encourage a dialogue. Pick several of these ideas and use them next time in a meeting.