The Two Modern Laws of Answering Questions

George TorokCommunication skills, Insights, Presentation Tips, Public Speaking Leave a Comment


When you present before an audience you must be aware of the difference between the Ancient Laws and the Modern Laws of answering questions. Get this right and save yourself grief while delivering more effective presentations.


These two Modern Laws are important to you because most of us were taught the Ancient Laws for most of our life. First our parents and then our teachers drummed into us the Ancient Laws of answering questions: that we must answer and we must respond immediately to their questions.


Perhaps you attempted to defy those authorities but eventually most of us succumbed to the false rules about answering questions. Then we carried that baggage into our business presentations. Here is an important wake-up call for all presenters.


It’s still difficult to shake that tyranny of responding to questions. Read these two Modern Laws and think about them as they apply to a presentation before you move on.


  1. You don’t need to answer the question now.

  2. You don’t need to answer the question.


When you deliver a business presentation today, you must learn and be comfortable with the two Modern Laws of answering questions. As the presenter you have more control than you might first think. When it comes to handling questions, you are in charge.


  1. You don’t need to answer the question now.


Just because a member of your audience raises their hand or shouts out an uninvited question doesn’t mean that you should disrupt your presentation to cater to their whim.


There are times in your presentation when you might be making an important point that you want to complete. If you are interrupted by an eager questioner, you can acknowledge that person with a nod to indicate that you see them and indicate that you want them to hold their question for a moment.


If you already announced that you will take questions later, remind them to hold till the question period.


If the person asks a question on a topic that you plan to talk about later, ask them to hold that question because you will come to that topic.



  1. You don’t need to answer the question.


There are some questions that you don’t need to answer. If it is off topic you could point that out. Or you might say, let’s focus on…


You don’t need to answer hostile questions. If the questioner is attacking you personally, you could respond with, “This is not about personalities, this is about…”


Or you could simply ignore the questioner and ask for other questions from your audience. If possible, don’t allow that attacker to ask another question.


The message for you: When you present you decide when and how you will respond to questions. Don’t get fooled into dancing at the whims of offensive audience members.


Naturally there are exceptions. Sometimes that offensive person might be your boss. But that is a question for another day.


Here’s an example of things going wrong. I was delivering a speech to an eager audience. As I was closing, a hand went up. I fell into the trap of my childhood training and allowed the person to speak. He made an obtuse comment which totally ruined the flow of my close.


The Modern Laws of answering questions is not about being mean or arrogant. It’s about you achieving your presentation goals. Sometimes your audience steps out of line, and you need to show them the law.


The Two Modern Laws of Answering Questions

Read more posts about handling and leveraging questions during your Presentation

Engage Your Audience with Three Types of Questions

Use the Power of Rhetorical Questions

3 Creative Ways to Engage Your Audience with Questions

Handle Questions with Authority: Top Ten Tips


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