When giving a presentation or a talk, it is inevitable that members in your audience will need you to clarify something that you said. Many of our clients, both native and non-native English speakers, are concerned about this extemporaneous part of a presentation. Here are some tips for managing Questions & Answer (Q & A) moments or sessions:
- In your introduction, tell your audience when you will be answering questions. If your discussion is informal, you may invite the audience to raise their hand at any point to interrupt you. However, in more formal presentations, it is usually best to instruct your audience to wait until the end of your talk to ask questions. Tell them approximately how much time will be allotted for questions.
- Try to anticipate the kinds of questions you may be asked. If you are presenting technical information to a relatively lay audience, be prepared to explain things in a less complex manner.
- It is helpful to repeat a question so that all audience members can hear it. This also gives you a few minutes to organize your thoughts.
- If you do not understand the question, rephrase the question. “If I have understood you correctly, you are asking...”
- Try to avoid saying, "That is a good question," because it implies that other questions may not be! Instead, say "I'm glad you asked that," or "you make an interesting point ..."
- If you don't know the answer to a question, admit that. Tell the person that you will find out and get back to them. You can also ask the audience members for their input if they are an experienced group.
- If you are asked a multi-step question, respond to one portion at a time: "Let me speak to the first part of your question ..."
- Check in to see that your answer is adequate: "Does that answer your question?" "Was I able to clarify that point for you?" "Do I need to elaborate further?"
- If the question is intended to throw you off your game, you can choose to ignore it: "That question doesn't relate to my discussion today."
- If you have an audience member who is dominating the Q & A, after you respond to the question, look away to a different part of the room.
- If you are running out of time, say, "We have time for one last question." If you didn't have a chance to answer all of the questions, invite members to e-mail you so you can respond at a later time.
- Always finish the Q & A with your final take-away statement. This is particularly important when you have people in the audience who are attempting to "take control."
Handle questions with grace and gratitude. If you need help managing the Q & A portion of your presentations, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.