How to Answer Questions in Business Presentations: Your Teachers Lied to You
If you remember your school teachers you probably recall a few favorites and some ogres. Most of them meant well but they gave you bad advice when it comes to you delivering a business presentation.
It was elementary and later high school where we were indoctrinated with the rules of answering questions. Some of those rules are misguided. You might need to break your blind obedience to these rules.
Lie #1: Never start a sentence with “Because”
It is grammatically correct to start a sentence with the word “because”. Your teachers simply wanted you to include a little more thinking and preamble into your reply so they lied to you.
Ignore this rule and feel free to start a sentence with “Because”. If it helps, recall the Beatles song, “Because” which starts with the phrase, “Because the world is round, it turns me on.”
Lie #2: You must answer the question now
No, you don’t. There might be times during your presentation when questions are simply interruptions. You don’t need to answer the question if that disrupts your message. I’m not saying you should ignore the question. Just be aware of the whole environment and flow of your presentation. Perhaps you nod at the person to acknowledge their request or you might simply say, I’ll take your questions in a few minutes.
Lie #3: You must answer the question
This is the most shocking truth that might be most difficult to believe. You don’t need to answer the question that was asked - at all.
You don’t need to answer it:
If it was a trap question:
When did you stop beating your dog?
If it was an attack question:
Do you deny that you stole from the treasury?
If it was a frivolous question:
Boxers or briefs?
How can you deal with these?
Remain calm and say:
- Next question please.
- Let’s move on to serious issues.
- Please don’t waste our time with ridiculous questions.
- The topic today is ...
- The real question is ...
Lie #4: Look me in the eye when you answer my question
If you are talking to one person, follow this rule because you will look more believable.
However, when talking to a committee or an audience you are always talking to many even if one person asks most of the questions. Everyone in the room is listening to your answers and evaluating you. While answering a question in a group setting, make eye contact with a few people while delivering your answer to include them all in the conversation. After you have answered the question, look confidently back at the person who asked the question.
If you are questioned by a lawyer in a courtroom, look at the judge or jury while answering the question. They are the decision makers.
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Executive Speech Coach, Business presentation tips from George Torok, the Speech Coach for Executives