At some point in your presentation you will be expected to answer questions from your audience. They might have some burning questions that need to be answered before they buy into your message. Handling their questions with authority can make the difference for you between a successful presentation and a waste of time. This is the opportunity for the audience to test your knowledge on the topic and commitment to your message.
1. Explain at which points during the presentation you will take questions and how individuals will be recognized to speak. Point out the microphones they should use. State the rules that must be followed to ask questions.
2. Prepare how you will answer questions – especially the worst questions. Imagine how confident you will look when they hit you with the killer question – the question that is intended to skewer you to the wall. Instead you smile and calmly respond with a positive answer. Craft and rehearse the answers to these difficult questions before the presentation.
3. Maintain control of the questioning. Formally recognize the questioner before they speak and limit the number of questions. Allow only one person to speak at a time.
4. When listening to the question look at the questioner while moving away to include the whole group. Paraphrase the question for the group. State your answer to the group. Beware of answering only to the questioner.
5. Kick start the question period with, “A question I am often asked is, …”.Then answer your ‘question’. This helps to prime the pump and encourages others to ask questions.
6. If you don’t know the answer offer, “I don’t know the answer to that question but give me your card and I will get back to you.” Beware! You can only do this once or twice. Anymore and you will look dumb.
7. If you can’t answer a question but know that someone in the audience may know ask, “I know there are experts in the audience, how would they answer this question?” Only do this if you know there are experts in your audience.
8. When you get the person who strongly disagrees with you and refuses to shut up, respond, “Thank you for your opinion, I know there are different schools of thought on this issue – I am telling you what has worked for me.”
9. Avoid repeating, “Thank you that’s a good question.” after every question – the questions might not be good, and the audience will see through your insincerity.
10. Never end your presentation with a question period and closing with ‘no more questions? Well that’s all’. That is a weak close. Instead always finish with a closing statement that will resonate with the audience and reinforce your message.
Bonus tip: Plant the question you most want to hear. Before the program begins, ask someone sitting near the back to ‘pose’ the question on your signal.