How to manage questions in presentations we are always asked about when delivering presentation skills training to clients. In this article we will share tips on how to manage this.
We believe that any communication should be a conversation. The opportunity for your audience to have the chance to ask questions is important. Your content should provoke interest and your audience to know more specific information. This shows you have really engaged with the audience – and that they have listened!
Answering questions is also a way to demonstrate your credibility in the topic. It is a chance to show you know what you are talking about and if necessary put your case forward. If you are pitching for investment, answering questions on cashflow; supplier chains and investment among other points, show you really know and understand your business. In the Dragon’s Den, the way the contestants answer the questions, reassures the Dragons who might be investing in your business.
However, answering questions provokes genuine anxiety in many presenters.
I worked with a client who was a senior medical consultant. As part of professional development she had to deliver new practices. The answers from her colleagues/rivals were given to trick or undermine her credibility. And this was a culture for all speakers. However, through working with SuperStar Communicator, she discovered that the majority of colleagues were genuinely interested and wanted more information – hence the questions.
Another concern is that you don’t know the answer! This really causes so much anxiety; with your little voice saying in your mind “The audience won’t respect me. The audience will think I’m a fraud!” Of course there is every chance that a very specific question can’t be answered, and needs to be answered privately. The same applies when there is specific expertise required: you might need to check particular data to ensure you answer correctly. It is okay to not know specific, detailed information but I would recommend you do know your topic! Politely say:
Please give me your contact details and I will send the accurate information you need
How about if you are doing a presentation on behalf of someone else. Perhaps they are unwell or are unable to present. And you step in. At the end of the presentation, it is of value to the audience to have Q & As, BUT you should acknowledge that you are presenting on behalf of someone else, and if necessary, you will take the question and respond later. Audiences worth their weight in gold will respect you and you have set expectations.
Tips on managing questions during presentations
You might be someone who is happy to take questions during a presentation. I am not so keen on this! Not only could I lose my flow of thought, or forget where I am in the presentation! But for the audience it could be frustrating because they are in the flow of the presentation too. I would recommend you set the ground rules of questions at the beginning of the presentation. “There will be time for questions at the end of the presentation”.
Using technology and APPS for asking questions
This is a very useful way of ensuring all voices and questions are asked. We have all attended events where one or two people dominate the Q and A sessions or they are Showboating to raise their profile. Attendees can ask questions via the APP – such as Slido or Mentimeter and then vote on which questions are most interesting to the audience. I would, however, recommend that this is monitored by a third party and if there are specific topics you don’t want to cover, they could omit these questions. Also, I saw a terrible situation where the questions and running comments were shown behind a speaker on a screen. Some of the audience decided to be very rude about the speaker whilst he was speaking: it was bullying. But what made it worse was that the moderator failed to delete these comments. If used well, it is helpful, but you do need to have someone moderating comments and questions to be respectful to everyone.
Answering questions with confidence
There are a few techniques you can use to ‘manage yourself’ when asked questions. Here are some tips.
- Remember people are asking questions because they are interested in your presentation and want more information.
- Your presentation has inspired them to know more!
- Repeat the question back to the questioner. This confirms you have heard the question correctly.
- Repeating the question also allows the audience to have heard the question. (The asker might be quietly spoken).
- It also gives you a few moments to formulate your response.
- It is okay to ask further questions of the asker to qualify the question
- If you don’t know the answer, respectfully say you will send further information privately and could you have their contact details.
- If there is an additional piece of information you have at hand, that could assist the audience, offer to send it to everyone.
- Occasionally people ask questions to antagonise the speaker, or to challenge them. Of course, we are all human and might want to respond with anger. Please avoid this! The audience will generally be horrified by this person. BUT they will side with him or her if you respond with aggression or negatively. It is likely other people won’t ask questions too! Respond with something neutral but professional such as “Thank you for your comment”
How to manage questions in presentations is a crucial skill. In the end, this is a chance for you to demonstrate your credibility and to engage with more people. If you would like more information about how SuperStar Communicator could assist you, why not book a call?