10 Steps to Your Success

Manage Questions

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The vote is split. Some presenters love to be asked questions as they enjoy the exchanges with the audience. Some presenters want to get up, give their presentation, and not have to answer questions. Unfortunately the decision about whether the audience should be able to ask questions is not always left up to the speaker. For most presentations, you are expected to answer the questions with grace, charm and a smile on your face. Here are tips for effectively answering questions.

  1. Anticipate potential questions. Before your talk prepare answers to some questions you think you may be asked. Practice saying those answers out loud. You many be nervous before giving a talk because you fear being asked certain questions. Consequently, you spend the whole talk waiting for the “dreaded” question. Practice, several times, answering out loud the two to four most dreaded questions. Then, you’ll be able to answer those questions with ease.
  2. Keep energized. Save enough energy so you feel like answering the questions. If you are likely to have many questions at the end of your talk, pace yourself so you are able to answer the questions with energy and excitement.
  3. Be brief. Answer the question as briefly as possible and then say, “Shall I say some more about this topic now?” or “Are there other specifics you’d like to know right now?” Better you say less and the person asking the question asks for more. Don’t keep talking until the person’s eyes glaze over.
  4. Take time. Rephrase the question if you need a moment to think before answering. This is a way to give your mind time to organize an answer.
  5. Be gracious, no matter what. Be respectful to questioners even if their intent is to embarrass you. Your audience will respect you if you answer every question as a legitimate one.
  6. Stay focused. Only answer questions related to your presentation and suggest that unrelated questions be discussed after the presentation. Don’t bore your whole audience with information they didn’t come to hear.
  7. Have backup. Bring a backup visual of detailed facts that you might need during the question period. Only show this visual if you need it to enhance your answer.
  8. Give center stage. Some people don’t have questions, they just want to let everyone hear that they know about your subject. They want recognition. Let the person make his or her statements and then say, “Thank you for your comment.” If you can find a way to acknowledge it more do so. For example you could say, if true, “I appreciate your clarifying that point for all of us.”
  9. Conclude a second time. Have another enthusiastic, motivating conclusion to give after you answer all the questions. After you have answered the last question, make some concluding remarks or even show a summary slide. Why? You don’t want your presentation to be the victim of the last question. You want to control the final message your audience hears.

Remember this the next time you get asked a question: This person is engaged enough in my talk to ask a question. I’m fortunate!

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