You can expect your audience to have questions about your presentation. That indicates interest in your presentation message.
When you answer questions from the audience, that allows you to engage them and reinforce your message. The question-and-answer session can convey your confidence, reveal your depth of knowledge and enhance the rapport between you and your audience – if you handle it well.
Treat every question like a gift – even if it wasn’t meant that way. This is the positive mindset to adopt. This doesn’t mean that you say “Thank you for your question” after every question. That could sound insincere, especially when you are asked dumb or hostile questions.
Instead, show respect for the person by listening intently and treating the question with the respect it deserves. When in doubt about the intentions of the questioner, assume the positive. Your audience will appreciate that you take the higher ground.
Follow this simple seven-step process to answer questions effectively during your presentation.
While listening to the question look at the questioner and express a comfortable smile. You might nod to show that you are listening. Nodding and smiling doesn’t mean that you agree with their opinion. It simply means that you are listening and you understand.
- Include Your Audience
If you were standing close to that person when they started their question, slowly back away from them to enlarge the envelope of inclusion with as much of the audience as possible. You want to include the whole audience in this discussion.
- Stay Focused
If the person seems to be rambling or delivering a speech, you might interrupt with “And your question is?” Smile when you say this. Stay focused on the purpose of your message.
- Repeat or Reframe
After the question has been asked, pause for a few seconds then repeat the question while looking at the audience.
Do this for three reasons:
- To allow everyone to clearly hear the question,
- To demonstrate to the questioner that you heard the question,
- To give yourself time to think about your answer.
There are times when you might not repeat the question. Instead, you reframe it because:
- It was a long and rambling question,
- The question or words were offensive,
- You don’t want to answer the question the way it was worded.
After you have repeated or reframed the question, pause for a few seconds. This allows the audience to think about the question and builds the anticipation and hence the value of your answer. The audience will be more eager to hear the answer after they’ve had a few seconds to think about the question.
Then deliver your answer while looking at the group – not the questioner. Your audience is as interested in the answer as the questioner. You are not talking to one person; you are presenting your message to the group. Don’t be afraid to repeat or paraphrase some part of your presentation. But don’t say, “As I said earlier” because that diminishes the value of the question and your answer.
If you answered the question well and know that you did, look at the questioner and ask, “Did I answer your question?” That person will say “Yes” which boosts the credibility of your presentation.
If you answered the question poorly, don’t look at that person because he will nail you with a follow-up question or attack your weak answer. Instead, quickly look around the room and ask, “Who has the next question?”
Answering questions from your audience might be the most pivotal part of your presentation. Don’t wing it. Be prepared and follow this seven-step process to effectively answer questions when you present.
© George Torok helps business presenters to deliver more effective presentations.
How to Answer Questions from Your Audience: The Seven Step Formula
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