Question and Answer Sessions
How do you answer presentation questions? What do you say if you receive a tough question?
There are some key steps that you, as a speaker, can take to successfully answer the queries.
Steps to successful answers:
- Know your topic and have thought of the likely questions so your answers can be prepared before your presentation.
- After finishing your presentation, offer to take questions by saying, ‘What questions do you have about . . . . . ?’ (the topic)
- Don’t ask, ‘Has anyone got a question?’ This requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response and is not encouraging queries. It may result in deathly silence.
- Stand still, facing the audience, and scan the audience by moving only your head to find a person with a query.
- Look directly at the asker and maintain eye contact all the time.
- Listen carefully.
- Paraphrase the question as this will illustrate that:
- you have listened and understood
- the asker knows you understand
- everyone in the audience hears
- you have time to collect your thoughts for the answer
- you are not letting the audience know if you know the answer or not
- Respond by looking at the asker and then address the audience by making eye contact with others.
- Form a conclusion.
- Field other questions as required and / or time permits.
- After all questions are answered, re-deliver the ending of your speech so your presentation ends on the positive note you had planned.
What if tough questions are asked?
There are three types of difficult questions:
- Don’t know the answer
- Cannot provide an answer
- Guilty as accused
When you don’t know the answer, realise you are not expected to be a walking encyclopaedia. Don’t lie. Follow these steps:
- Say something like, ‘I’m unsure of the answer, however, I will follow this up for you. Can you please leave me your details and I will get back to you as soon as possible.’
When you cannot provide an answer because of confidentiality or policy then respond in this way:
- Explain why you can’t give the answer
i. Company only shares policies which are published
ii. Confidentiality must be adhered to in this situation
iii. It is policy to not share ongoing negotiations
Guilty as accused means the asker is questioning a known fact on the topic. The steps to follow are:
- Acknowledge that the asker has put forward a valid question
i. ‘You are correct that this is the case’
ii. ‘Your fact is currently correct’
- Dispel the asker’s concern
i. ‘A lot of work is being done to reduce the . . . ‘
ii. ‘It is expected that this will no longer occur very soon’
- Use facts to verify your previous statement
i. ‘A complete change in approach has overcome the issue and next week the new details will be launched including . . . ‘
ii. ‘A replacement has been arranged and will be here within 10 days’
- Conclude with strong evidence
i. The facts are . . . and . . .
ii. The benefits will be . . . and . . .
- Many speakers suggest you thank the asker by saying:
‘That’s a good question. Thank you. ”
‘Thank you for this great question.’
- Others say it gives the perception that the speaker needs extra time to process the answer. It is up to you to choose your response. You can always thank the asker at the end of your answer.
- If time permits, and you wish to develop further discussion, you could also say,
‘Is that the type of answer you expected?’
‘Have I answered your question?’
- You can also develop linking questions with a response such as;
‘From the previous question and answer, do you have any further queries regarding this?’
- If you have paper and pens supplied, you can offer people to have the opportunity to write a question. This allows quieter people to participate.
The question and answer session can be a bonus for your presentation. If you have fully engaged your audience, kept them interested and developed curiosity for your subject, then the Q and A time will expand your delivery and assist in making it memorable.