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!


Suppose 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.

What should you do? 


Or, someone in the audience just wants to show off his knowledge and does not really want to hear your answer.

What 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 difficult questioners.


Overall, you must first consider three points before you even begin your presentation (or meeting):


1) When to take questions

2) How to take them

3) How to deal with difficult ones


1) 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 schedule/outline).


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.

SUMMARIZE YOUR 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.


The 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.


The second method, writing, can sometimes be helpful with an audience that is too shy to stand up and ask directly.

However, 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.


The 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 audiences.


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.




·     DO YOU UNDERSTAND?          If 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. 

CAUTION: 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 you!

·   EYE CONTACT.                          Talk 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.



 There are 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.


“I 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?

3 Solutions:

A) 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 with it. 


B) REFLECT:  Say: “Good question.  “Let’s take a minute to think about this, and really understand it?”

Another 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?

2 Solutions:

D) TURN AROUND or TURN BACKSay: “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 mistake.  Unfortunately, sometimes, there is one of these in the audience.


E) TURN OUTWARDSay: “How would you deal with this problem?” (point to the entire audience and make eye contact with several members of the audience).



YOU REALLY DON'T KNOW?       If 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).



Finally, 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 one answering.