5 Tips for Handling Questions During a Presentation

Questions are a normal part of any presentation, whether you’re leading a workshop, speaking at an industry conference or presenting your marketing plan to an executive.

I’ve scoured the four dusty corners of the web to assemble this awesome list of tips for handling questions like a pro:

1. Program questions into your talk

  • Don’t let questions interrupt your talk and derail you. Instead, program Q&A into your talk. As you transition from one section to the next, ask for questions.
  • With executives especially, expect questions within 5 minutes. To appear like you’re controlling the presentation, ask for questions in the first 3 minutes rather than waiting for them to interrupt you.
  • Don’t end your presentation with Q&A. You’ll end up trailing off with “Well, if there are no more questions, thanks for having me.” Instead, plan a 2 minute wrapup at the end of Q&A so you restate your main points and end with a strong close, like a story or call to action.

2. Don’t ask “Are there any questions?”. Instead ask

  • What questions do you have? “Are there any questions?” is a yes/no question and people are less likely to ask. “What questions do you have?” presumes there most certainly ARE questions to be asked – what are they?
  • Have a question in your back pocket, in case you don’t get any questions. For instance, if you’re met with silence, offer “One question I’m often asked is: how does this work in other cultures” and then answer that.

3. Don’t use the phrase “Great Question!”. It’s condescending (I know, that’s why I asked it) and insults others in the room (what was wrong with MY question?). Instead train yourself to select from this menu of delicious options:

“I am glad that you asked that question.”
“You raise an interesting point.”
“Thank you for asking”
“I wonder how many others in the room have the same question?”
“I was hoping someone would ask that question”
“Your question gives me a chance to … (clarify, emphasize, etc.)”
“Let’s talk about that!”
“That’s a good question because many people wonder if (a relevant point they might not have thought of) and the answer is…”
or my PERSONAL favorite…
“Ah! If I had a million dollars for every time I heard that question!”

 4. Manage the Q&A period well

  • When multiple hands go up, say “I’ll take you first, you second and you third”
  • Repeat the question so others in the room can hear it
  • Ask the person to confirm: is that what you wanted to know?

5. If you expect hecklers or critics

  • Audiences are less likely to be hostile if they like you. Greet them at the door, chat with audience members.
  • Hold Q&A until the end. At the start, say “I only have 30 minutes to speak. I’m going to stay within that timeline but I’ll leave 5 minutes at the end for questions.”
  • To alert hecklers they can’t monopolize the floor, open the Q&A period with “I have 5 minutes for questions. Who would like to go FIRST?”

You may also want to check out the book In the Line of Fire by Jerry Weissman, with his advice for handling questions in high-stakes presentations, like investor pitches and political speeches. I hope some of these tips pay off for you during the Q&A of your next presentation.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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