TO ANSWER DIFFICULT QUESTIONS
A guide to make your presentation more effective (and can even help in your meetings)
Important Statement: This article is giving professional strategies and tactics to deal honestly with your audience. It is NOT TEACHING TRICKS OR LIES!
you just finished your presentation and everything went very well.
Now, it is time for questions.
When the very first one is asked, you cannot answer it.
should you do?
someone in the audience just wants to show off his knowledge and does
not really want to hear your answer.
can you do?
These and other situations perplex even veteran business and technical professionals when they give presentations or lead meetings at the office.
However, there are
some easy methods to adopt when confronted with difficult questions and
you must first consider three points before you even begin your
presentation (or meeting):
When to take questions
How to take them
How to deal with difficult ones
WHEN -- You can take
questions during or after your presentation.
DURING -- If
you take them during, the answers may be more meaningful.
However, there is the danger that you will lose precious time and
introduce information prematurely (before its time and before the
AFTER -- If
you take questions afterward, you will control the schedule and time,
but you risk losing the audience’s attention and interest perhaps.
Also, at the end of the presentation, there will be extra
emphasis on the questions and answers to them – rather than on your
presentation and your conclusion/recommendation – since the questions
and answers (Q&A) came last in the time sequence.
POINTS AFTER Q&A -- This is called the FOLLOW UP. Always schedule two or three minutes at the end of the
Q&A to summarize your main points.
2) HOW TO TAKE QUESTIONS -- There are three usual methods of taking questions.
(1) orally, directly from individuals in the audience, and
(2) written, collected and then read to the audience, and
(3) using both
oral and written.
first one is the most efficient, because it saves time and there is a
better opportunity for feedback, clarity of understanding and eye
contact with the person asking the question.
second method, writing, can sometimes be helpful with an audience that
is too shy to stand up and ask directly.
this is time consuming and really limits the valuable interaction
between the presenter and the audience that can be very effective in
communication. On the other
hand, in our environment, sometimes this method is more appropriate,
especially when the presenter is at a higher level status than those
people asking the questions.
third method, of course, may be the best choice since it combines the
benefits of both oral and written and can accommodate all types of
3) HOW TO DEAL WITH DIFFICULT QUESTIONS -- Here are 5 methods, to help you deal with difficult questions and the people who ask them.
The difficulties can be either
(1) you need more time; or
(2) there is a "trouble-maker" in the audience.
you do not understand the question, ask the person to make it clearer so
you can answer properly
· THAT'S COMING LATER. If someone asks a question (during your presentation) that focuses on information you are going to give later in your presentation . . . just say: “Good question. We are going to cover that in just a few minutes,” Then continue with your current point/idea.
Do not use this as a stalling tactic, because you do not know the
answer! This will get you
into trouble, because the audience will be waiting for you to cover the
point asked in the question, and the person asking will certainly catch
to everyone when you answer. Keeping
eye contact only with the questioner will make the others in the
audience feel left out and lose interest in you.
· NON-VERBAL SIGNS Look at the audience to see who is confused or has a problem with understanding your answer. Looking for negative non-verbal signs will be a clue to you. Just saying: “Is that clear?” or the usual “Does that answer it?” is not enough, because most people will say “Yes” even if it is not clear and doesn’t answer it properly. Look at their faces which will tell a bigger story about their understanding.
other “phrases” (which come from our Internet Age environment) I have
witnessed in boardrooms, meeting rooms and conference rooms – and even
during telephone conversations – such as
“Let’s take that offline”
which means you will speak individually with the person in private
because you do not want to answer to the entire audience.
don’t have the bandwith
to deal with that right now”
which means I don’t have the authority or I don’t have the
permission, or I don’t have the time to deal with that right now.
DIFFICULTY #1-- You know the answer, but need a moment to remember?
REPEAT – Say: “You’re wondering how to deal with this
situation of” (say the issue/problem) and take the time while you are
repeating the question/issue/problem to formulate an answer that deals
“Good question. “Let’s
take a minute to think about this, and really understand it?”
tactic in this situation that I have seen is to take off your eye
glasses, clean them and replace them on your head, all the while talking
about one point of another about the issue/question/problem.
C) COPY: Write the
question on a flip chart, whiteboard, chalkboard or transparency.
Then allow time for you and the audience to read it.
This will give you time, if you have forgotten the answer and
need some time to formulate a response.
DIFFICULTY #2 -- There is a "trouble-maker" in the audience for your presentation or meeting?
D) TURN AROUND or TURN BACK –
Say: “How would you answer this
question?” Or say: “How would you deal with this issue?”
This tactic is effective
for the one who is asking just to be
heard and seen, or for the one who is trying to “catch” you in a
sometimes, there is one of these in the audience.
TURN OUTWARD – Say: “How would you deal with this problem?”
to the entire audience
and make eye contact with several members of the audience).
YOU REALLY DON'T
you do not know, say “Can I get that information to you, or anyone
else who’s interested after the (meeting, presentation, etc.)
or my "Old Professor Told Me Story" (from class lecture).
or my "Old Professor Told Me Story" (from class lecture).
remember that Q&A sessions are not designed to find out if you
cannot answer something. They
are usually polite part of the presentation that provides opportunities
for exchanging ideas and new information for both the questioner and the