PRESENTATION SKILLS Unit 8: Dealing with Questions
THE POWER TO QUESTION IS THE BASISOF ALL HUMAN PROGRESS. — Indira Ghandi
This one is called:Last minutes of a presenter.
VERY often presenters are afraid of their audienceto ask questions and, when the presentation comesto that part, fall into a defensive, suspicious position.They forget one simple truth:your audience is not your enemy.Even more, if you want them to follow your objective,you should try to be friends with them and help them.If your objective is for example to convince themto buy your product, after presentation they will considerdoing so only if they have all their questions answered.
IN this unit we will talk about how to deal with questionsand how to be ready with most of them in advance.
Anticipating questionsTHINK of the questions in advance. If you knowyour topic and your audience, it’s easy to anticipatewhat your audience will want to know about whatyou tell them.Make a list of questions. Answers to the core,most important things about your topic you will includein your talk, more speciﬁc and detailed you leavefor Q&A part.
Anticipating questionsFor example, you’ll be telling about a problem. The core and common questionthat comes to mind is, ‘What has to be done?’Or you’ll be presenting a new project. Logical questions of your audiencewill be something like:How much does it cost?Who will be responsible?How long does it take?Is there a deadline?Do we get support?What can go wrong?What are the alternatives? — if your new suggestion is not 100 % perfect,audience will want to consider another option, so you need to think throughhow to convince them that yours is still better.
Anticipating questionsYOU should also anticipate another type of questions.Some listeners may stick to weak points in your talk.Little details, current problems of the company,shortcomings of your project —questions about them are very likely.Don’t panic and don’t try to hide the truth.Being honest is very important, all you can do is tryto soften the negative and present it in a more positiveway. Be ready to such questions and know how to answermore positively.
FIRST, let’s talk about the questions that happen during your presentation and interrupt you.
Dealing with interruptionsSOMETIMES people ask questions duringthe presentation, even if you have asked the audienceto wait until the Q&A session. Whereas some questionscan and should be answered quickly(for example, when a participant hasn’t understoodsomething you’ve said), you might prefer to postponeunwelcome questions or comments.✣ If you don’t mind, I’ll deal with this question later in my presentation.✣ Can we get back to that a bit later?✣ Would you mind waiting with your questions until the question and answer session at the end?
Dealing with interruptionsAFTER answering questions, especially thosethat require a longer answer, it is sometimes necessaryto remind the audience what you were talkingabout before the interruption.✣ Before we continue, let me brieﬂy summarize the points we were discussing.✣ So, back to what I was saying about ...
NOW, let’s look closely at your step-by-stepof answering questions during Q&A session.
Answering questions1. Listen the question carefully.Well, it’s obvious.
Answering questions2. Ask for clariﬁcation or repetition.If you didn’t understand the question, if you’re not sure —politely ask the person to repeat or explain it.✣ Sorry, I’m not sure I’ve understood. Could you repeat?✣ I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch (the last part of) your question.✣ I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your question.✣ If I have understood you correctly, you mean ...? Is that right?✣ Are you asking if ...?✣ Do you mean ...?
Answering questions3. Reformulate the question in your own words.This techniques is often used because it has several advantages:a) you’ll check that you understand it correctly,b) it will give you some time to think about the answer,c) with a large or noisy audience, it allows the other participants to hear the question,d) ﬁnally, it gives you the chance to change the tone of the question, e.g. by making it less aggressive.✣ I see. So, what you’re asking is: ...✣ If I understand you correctly, you want to know ...✣ OK, let me just repeat your question so everybody can hear it.✣ If I could just rephrase your question ...
Answering questions3. Reformulate the question in your own words. The question is: You reformulate to by: make it: negative positive leaving out negative ✣ Isn’t there a better ✣ What would be words such as no, solution? a better solution? never, none, etc. aggressive neutral avoiding words which ✣ Do you honestly ✣ You’re asking whether sound aggressive believe we can get I think it is possible or have a negative the contract? to get the contract. meaning such as honestly, really, disaster
Answering questions4. Answer the question.Quite obvious, too.If the question is okay and you know the answer, you don’t need our help.If the question is difﬁcult, you may soften your answer:✣ That’s a difﬁcult to answer in a few words ... It could be ... In my experience, ... I would say ...
Answering questions5. Finally, check that the questioner is satisﬁed with your answer.Eye contact and a pause is often sufﬁcient. You may ask:✣ Does that answer your question?✣ Is that okay?✣ May we go on?
YOU don’t always have to answer the question. Or answer it right there and at that moment.
Avoiding giving an answer: What if...1) If you don’t know the answer, be honest and say so. Offer to ﬁnd out, or refer to another person who can answer the question.✣ Sorry, that’s not my ﬁeld. But I’m sure Mr ... from Sales could answer your question.✣ I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’ll try to ﬁnd out for you.✣ I’m afraid I’m not in a position to answer that. Perhaps Maria could help.✣ I’m afraid that’s outside the scope of my talk / this session. If I were you I’d discuss that with ...
Avoiding giving an answer: What if...2) If the question is irrelevant, you may prefer not to answer it. Say politely about it. If you prefer to answer, answer politely but brieﬂy.✣ Can we talk about that on another occasion?✣ That’s interesting, but I’d prefer not to answer that today.
Avoiding giving an answer: What if...3) If the question is impossible to answer in time available, you may postpone your answer. Suggest to discuss this question after the presentation.✣ I’ll have to come to that later, perhaps during the break since we’re running out of time.✣ Perhaps we could deal with that later.
Q&A session: general adviceKeep control.Limit the number of questions if you’re running out of time. The durationof the whole presentation should remain the same, people react badlyif the event takes longer than what was announced in the beginning.Tell people who still have questions that you will answer them after thepresentation.Also, if a question is long and rather a mini-speech, ask what exactlythe question is before answering.
Q&A session: general adviceDon’t allow one or two people to dominate.Politely interrupt the person who is about to ask the third question in a rowthat you can see other people wanting to ask and that ‘let’s also hear otheropinions’.
Q&A session: general adviceStay polite.As we said, some questioners attack a weak point and the speaker can becomedefensive. But: never allow yourself that — the biggest danger is the counter-attack. Never criticize a member of the audience. Instead of this, give a short,polite and concise answer, rather than a self-justifying lecture.
Q&A session: general adviceSignal when time is running out.Simply saying, ‘Time for one last question / two more questions’ is enough.
Q&A session: general adviceRefer to documentation, handouts or other information.Remind people they have handouts and can visit the company’s sitefor further information.
Q&A session: general adviceInvite further comments or questions via email.This way people who didn’t get a chance to ask their question, or didn’t haveany questions at the time of the presentation, may contact you.Make sure you provide everyone with your personal contact information.
Q&A session: general adviceThank the audience for their questions, for visiting the event, and say goodbye.
KEY POINTSOnce again — common order of answering questions:
KEY POINTSOnce again — common order of answering questions: 1. Listen to questions carefully and ask to repeat or explain if needed. 2. Reformulate the question before answering. 3. Don’t answer the questions you can’t or wouldn’t like to, but explain why. 4. Watch the time.
KEY POINTS ... and above all:Be positive, and polite, and honest.