5. VERY often presenters are afraid of their audience
to ask questions and, when the presentation comes
to 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 them
to buy your product, after presentation they will consider
doing so only if they have all their questions answered.
6. IN this unit we will talk about
how to deal with questions
and how to be ready with most of them in advance.
8. Anticipating questions
THINK of the questions in advance. If you know
your topic and your audience, it’s easy to anticipate
what your audience will want to know about what
you tell them.
Make a list of questions. Answers to the core,
most important things about your topic you will include
in your talk, more speciﬁc and detailed you leave
for Q&A part.
9. Anticipating questions
For example, you’ll be telling about a problem. The core and common question
that comes to mind is, ‘What has to be done?’
Or you’ll be presenting a new project. Logical questions of your audience
will 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 through
how to convince them that yours is still better.
10. Anticipating questions
YOU 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 try
to soften the negative and present it in a more positive
way. Be ready to such questions and know how to answer
11. FIRST, let’s talk about the questions that happen
during your presentation and interrupt you.
13. Dealing with interruptions
SOMETIMES people ask questions during
the presentation, even if you have asked the audience
to wait until the Q&A session. Whereas some questions
can and should be answered quickly
(for example, when a participant hasn’t understood
something you’ve said), you might prefer to postpone
unwelcome 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?
14. Dealing with interruptions
AFTER answering questions, especially those
that require a longer answer, it is sometimes necessary
to remind the audience what you were talking
about before the interruption.
✣ Before we continue, let me brieﬂy summarize the points we were discussing.
✣ So, back to what I was saying about ...
15. NOW, let’s look closely at your step-by-step
of answering questions during Q&A session.
18. Answering questions
2. 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 ...?
19. Answering questions
3. 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 ...
20. Answering questions
3. Reformulate the question in your own words.
The question is: You reformulate to by:
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
21. Answering questions
4. 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 ...
22. Answering questions
5. 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?
23. YOU don’t always have to answer the question.
Or answer it right there and at that moment.
25. 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 ...
26. 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.
27. 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
✣ 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.
29. Q&A session: general advice
Limit the number of questions if you’re running out of time. The duration
of the whole presentation should remain the same, people react badly
if the event takes longer than what was announced in the beginning.
Tell people who still have questions that you will answer them after the
Also, if a question is long and rather a mini-speech, ask what exactly
the question is before answering.
30. Q&A session: general advice
Don’t allow one or two people to dominate.
Politely interrupt the person who is about to ask the third question in a row
that you can see other people wanting to ask and that ‘let’s also hear other
31. Q&A session: general advice
As we said, some questioners attack a weak point and the speaker can become
defensive. 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.
32. Q&A session: general advice
Signal when time is running out.
Simply saying, ‘Time for one last question / two more questions’ is enough.
33. Q&A session: general advice
Refer to documentation, handouts or other information.
Remind people they have handouts and can visit the company’s site
for further information.
34. Q&A session: general advice
Invite further comments or questions via email.
This way people who didn’t get a chance to ask their question, or didn’t have
any questions at the time of the presentation, may contact you.
Make sure you provide everyone with your personal contact information.
35. Q&A session: general advice
Thank the audience for their questions, for visiting the event, and say goodbye.
37. KEY POINTS
Once 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.
38. KEY POINTS
... and above all:
Be positive, and polite, and honest.