Taking questions is an integral part of your presentation and requires the same preparation as the presentation content in order for you to manage things with confidence. There are different ways of taking questions from the audience and this will depend on the type of presentation scenario.
If you are giving a more interactive presentation, you may be taking questions throughout the presentation and it can become more of a discussion with the audience. If it is a more formal presentation, you may have a Q&A session at the end of the presentation.
The importance of preparation
Whatever type of presentation it is , its important that you prepare for the questions from the audience.
You don’t want to just rely on being able to think on your feet on the day and hope that it all goes well. You can do some specific preparation, just as you do with your presentation.
It’s good to think about the audience again and what attitude or pre-conceived ideas or opinions they may have when the come to the presentation.
This is what we call ’Audience Baggage’. If you consider the Audience Baggage beforehand and think about the types of questions the audience may ask, you are going to be more prepared.
Preparing for difficult questions
It’s good to write down some of the most difficult questions you may be asked.
Then take the time to decide how best to answer these. Write down your answers. Then practise answering them out aloud. If you’re unhappy about your response, rework it.
The responses that you have prepared will then help you if you do actually get asked these (or similar) questions on the day by giving you a set of phrases and words you have already formulated in your mind that you can now draw upon.
Controlling the audience
You want to be in control of your audience and not let anyone take over in the question section.
There are some key techniques that you can use to help control your audience. For example setting ground rules and how to do this effectively so that the audience follow them.
Also it’s important to fully understand the questions first before responding. Often we go into panic mode when we hear the question rather than staying calm and taking time to listen to the question to make sure that we fully understand it. So taking time to listen and understand the question first is a good calming technique and will help you stay in control.
Avoiding audience traps
The ability to deal with difficult questions and being able to respond with ease, without losing face is very important in order for you to maintain your confidence.
It’s therefore important that you are succinct in your responses and say what you want to say rather than what the audience might try and trap you into saying. Again – the more you have prepared beforehand and anticipated difficult or trap questions, the more you will be able to handle them effectively on the day.
It’s also important that you know how to end the question and answer session confidently.
It can be sometimes hard to bring the session to an end if people have got more questions to ask. The last thing you want is to lose control of things right at the end, so plan how you want to end the Q&A session beforehand. Make sure you stick to the time allocated and have a closing statement or strategy at hand, ready to use when you want to end the session.
The ability to take questions effectively is all about good preparation and planning, so that you have the ability and confidence to be able to tackle any question that you have thrown at you.