This happens a lot of time: you’ve prepared for your presentation, delivered a well-crafted one then comes the question and answer portion. Oftentimes, your audience will judge you by how you answer questions which is more difficult to prepare for. If handled well, it can enhance your overall presentation. If handled poorly though, this can hurt your credibility and totally derail your entire presentation.
In order to prepare yourself better in handling questions, especially tough ones, find out 7 common myths about it below and how to dispel them:
- #1: You should be dreading questions during presentations
- #2: You should try to dodge a difficult question as much as you can
- #3: It’s better to attempt an uninformed answer than tell the audience you don’t know
- #4: Begin answering a difficult question by saying “that’s a good question”
- #5: When asked a tough question, the first step is to formulate the best response
- #6: Prepare to defend yourself for questions that try to discredit you
- #7: Question and answer is between you and the questioner
#1: You should be dreading questions during presentations
Rather than fearing them, questions should be welcomed and even encouraged. Questions are actually crucial for your presentation to allow clarification and consolidation of learning. If you think about it, questions often mean the audience is interested, as opposed to being met with total silence which more likely indicates the audience didn’t learn anything or have lost interest.
#2: You should try to dodge a difficult question as much as you can
This is a big NO-NO as your audience will be able to see right through it. When they do, they will simply lose confidence in you. If the question is irrelevant, politely defer the question by saying you’ll discuss this personally with the questioner afterwards to avoid spending additional time. But if the question is relevant and you don’t know the answer…
#3: It’s better to attempt an uninformed answer than tell the audience you don’t know
Another common mistake is painfully struggling to answer something you obviously don’t know. Don’t be afraid to admit the limits of your knowledge by saying “I don’t know” followed by “But I can find out for you” then write it down. Your audience will appreciate the honesty. Besides, a presentation is a two-way process and this shows you’re learning from your audience as well.
#4: Begin answering a difficult question by saying “that’s a good question”
Rather than making the questioner feel proud, this actually establishes a hostile environment where the rest of your audience will feel their questions weren’t great. Saying this statement only serves to evaluate their questions. Instead, you can say “I’m glad you asked that…”
#5: When asked a tough question, the first step is to formulate the best response
Wrong. The first step is to listen and ask for clarification if needed. It’s essential to listen to all and not just some parts of the question before drawing premature conclusions about your “best” answer. Questions can change directions towards the latter and this can throw you off if you’re already busy searching for the most “suitable” response. For even worse than providing a wrong or unexpected response is making it obvious that you didn’t understand or answer the question directly.
Moreover, you shouldn’t hesitate to pause before answering to give you time to think. Pausing shouldn’t be construed as a sign of uncertainty as it is a sign of prudence.
#6: Prepare to defend yourself for questions that try to discredit you
This is most often a natural instinct especially when you’re attacked personally whether to offend you, trick you or simply replace your idea with the questioner’s own. Rather than defending yourself personally, focus on defending your idea. Being defensive or aggressive can be seen as a sign of weakness on your part and will hardly earn the sympathy of the rest of your audience. But ignoring the personal attacks and redirecting your answers back to your idea will.
#7: Question and answer is between you and the questioner
It’s not uncommon to see lengthy questioning by a questioner that turns into a one-to-one discussion, leaving the rest of the audience bored. Keep in mind that even if you’re taking a question from someone in the audience, you are still responsible for the interest and engagement of the rest of your audience. So when replying, direct your answer to both the questioner and other members of the group.
When you avoid these common pitfalls, you are more able to respond to questions during presentations positively and enthusiastically while keeping your answers brief and focused.
What other ways do you know of to effectively respond to difficult questions during presentations? Let us know through your comments below.
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