How you handle questions from an audience can often be the
deciding factor as to how your presentation is received. If
you’re pitching for business, then it’s absolutely vital to
handle questions well.
1. Be prepared for questions – When you write your
presentation, think about what you’re likely to be asked and
what your answer is going to be. Maybe you won’t want to
answer a particular question there and then, so think about
what you’ll say to satisfy the questioner.
2. Make it clear at the start – You may decide to take
questions as you go or at the end of your presentation.
Whatever you decide, make it clear at the start and don’t
change your mind. I would suggest questions at the end in a
short presentation; if you take questions as you go, then
your timing will get knocked out.
And always remember, an audience won’t forgive you for
taking half an hour when you were only scheduled to speak
for fifteen minutes.
3. Never finish with questions – Far better to ask for
questions five or ten minutes before the end, deal with the
questions and then summarise for a strong finish. Too many
presentations finish on questions and the whole thing goes a
bit flat – particularly if you don’t get any.
4. Listen – When asked a question, listen and look like your
listening. It may be something you’ve heard a million times
before. Treat the questioner with respect and don’t
trivialise their point.
5. Thank the questioner – It’s only polite, it shows respect
and it gives you a bit more time to consider your answer.
6. Repeat the essence of the question – Some people may not
have heard the question so your answer may not make any
sense to them. It can also be irritating for them not to
hear the question. Again, it gives you more time to think of
the answer and it makes you look so clever and in control.
7. Answer to everyone – Don’t fall into the trap of only
answering the questioner. If they happen to be near the
front then you could end up having a conversation with them
and exclude everyone else.
8. Keep it simple – Many speakers, when it comes to
questions, have become more relaxed and the fact that
someone is interested enough to ask them a question, leads
them to go on too long with the answer – DON’T.
9. Don’t bluff or bluster – If you don’t know the answer to
a question, say so and find out. Suggest to the questioner
that you’ll ‘phone them or come and see them with the
answer. It can even be a good way to make further contact
after the presentation.
As we all know, it’s possible that you may not be asked any
questions and you then have that awkward silence.
People may be thinking about what you’ve just said and may
need more time to ask. They may also be a bit shy and may
take a few minutes to speak out. Why not have a question of
your own prepared and say something like. “You may be asking
If you still fail to get any questions then go straight into
your summary and closing statement.
Handling a question and answer session well, demonstrates
your professionalism and reflects on your message.