The Presenter’s Guide to Handling Questions: 9 Tips for Success

So, you’ve done an excellent presentation conclusion, and now it’s time to handle questions. It’s a make-or-break time for presenters.

Most presenters would admit that this is the part of the presentation they dread, and there are many reasons for this. Their thinking is – I can control the rest of the presentation but not this bit; I can’t rehearse the questions – or the answers! I have to think too fast; I might not know the answers, I might find out people didn’t like it, I might have made a mistake.

So, overall, there is a lot of negative thinking towards handling questions which can be destructive.

Dealing with questions in a presentation is a skill that anyone can master. In this lecture, I will introduce some essential tips for handling questions.

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1) At the start of your presentation explain when your audience can ask questions

This process helps you to have a degree of control over proceedings. I always tell my audience that they can answer questions towards the end of the presentation.

It helps me as mentally I know the time slot in which I will get asked questions. Therefore, there are no real surprises. Here are some example phrases of how you can achieve this:-

“I will take questions at the end of the presentation.”

“There will be a 10 minutes Questions and Answers session at the end of the presentation.”

2) Adopt the mindset of celebrating questions!

Now, I’m not saying to do what this presenter is doing and to celebrate literally!  But….Audiences don’t ask questions if they don’t care. They’re interested in what you’ve said. They’re engaged!

So, try to celebrate questions! In your mind – try to see questions as a positive audience action rather than a scary experience.

3) Know your target audience

It’s important to know your target audience. This way you can prepare in advance to anticipate what questions you might get.

4) Prepare your answers

You can make a reasonable guess about what the questions are going to be.

If you know your topic well – the chances are that you will be able to anticipate the kind of questions you will get.

5) Design your answers

This means creating and designing slides with answers in advance and having these ready.

If a question comes up that has a relevant answer slide – you can type in the slide number to make the answer appear.

6) Listen to the entire question

Too many people start responding to a question before the entire question is even asked. Be careful as you dont want to provide a response which had nothing to do with the question.

Listen fully and respond when you’re fully certain that you understand.

7) Pause and repeat the question

Pause and allow yourself time to value the question and listener. REPEAT the question out loud so the entire audience can hear it. It is important that everyone “hear” the question or the answer you provide may not make sense to some of the people.

By repeating the question, this will allow you some additional time to evaluate the question and formulate a response.

8) Manage your audience’s questions

Don’t be overwhelmed with questions from your audience. You can manage your audience’s questions and here’s a simple way of doing it.

When it’s time for questions, you can use this phrase:-

“I’ll take you first, you second, and you third…”

‘You’ refers to the audience members who have their hands raised and are ready to ask questions.

Using this phrase helps you to stay in control and it doesn’t have to be said in a serious tone but in a lighthearted way.

9) Use the ‘32 Handling Questions Phrases!’

By all means refer to the Toomey Business English ‘32 Handling Questions Phrases.’

You’ll be equipped with phrases ranging from not knowing the answer to a question to asking the audience member to repeat, clarifying a question, checking whether an audience member is satisfied and acknowledging responses to good questions.