During your presentation your audience will often want to ask you questions. You must expect and encourage questions. This can be the tipping point in your presentation that moves them to think or do what you are proposing.
If this is so important to your success then you need to be well prepared for the questions and know how to handle the questions. It’s not only about knowing the answers. It’s more important how you handle the questions with authority.
Use these ten tips to handle the questions more effectively during your next presentation.
1. State the Rules
Tell your audience when 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. This might seem heavy handed but your audience wants to know the rules and it’s up to you to make and state them.
List and practice answering all possible questions. Especially prepare yourself for the worst questions. Imagine how confident you will look when someone asks you that killer question - the question that is intended to skewer you to the wall. Instead you smile and calmly respond with a positive answer. Be prepared. Craft and rehearse the answers to these difficult questions before the presentation.
3. Maintain Control
Stay in control of the questioning periods. Formally recognize the questioner before they speak, and limit the number of questions. Allow only one person to speak at a time.
4. Include the Group
When listening to the question look at the questioner while moving away from that person so as to physically include the whole group in that discussion. Paraphrase the question for the group. State your answer to the group. Beware of answering only to the questioner.
5. Ask Your Question First
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. Have a few of these rhetorical questions ready – just in case.
6. Admit That You Don’t Know
If you don't know the answer say, "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. Any more and you will look unprepared.
7. Your Audience Might Know
If you can't answer a question but know that someone in the audience might 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. There are often people in your audience who are eager to speak and demonstrate their knowledge. Let them.
8. Acknowledge the Dissenter
When you encounter 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." Don’t argue. Validate the dissenter and move on.
9. Avoid Sincerity Traps
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. Don’t End on a Question
Don’t end your presentation with the questions. You might have watched a speaker make this mistake. The questions petered off. The last question is often a weak or negative question and then the presenter finishes with “No more questions? I guess that’s all.”
Yuck, what a disgusting close. Instead always finish with a closing statement that will resonate with the audience and reinforce your message. End your presentation strong.
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.
You will master the presentation questions if you are prepared, know your facts and use these techniques. Content and style will determine the success of your presentation.
© George Torok is the Speech Coach for Executives. He coaches executives and trains business teams to deliver million dollar presentations. For more free presentation tips visit http://www.speechcoachforexecutives.com/ To arrange a speech or training program visit http://www.torok.com/ For media interviews call 905-335-1997
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