Handling questions during a presentation can be a sensitive issue. Here are some tips on how to handle the different types if questions you may encounter during your presentations:
The one-you-hoped-to-avoid – well to be honest, if there is a question that you were expecting but hoped no one would ask, then I can only assume that you are somewhat naive! My advice, either meet it head on during your presentation or else make sure you do have a response ready.
The one-that-you-didn’t-expect – similar to the above, if you have researched and practiced your presentation (with a trial audience) hopefully you will not encounter this one very often. If you do, and know the answer, then all well and good. If you do get it and don’t know the answer DO NOT AD LIB – you risk your credibility and undoing the tremendous job you have done with your presentation.
The long-winded-but-doesn’t-quite-get-to-the-point question. These can be challenging due to their lengthy nature and multiple parts. When you repeat the question back (see previous blog entry) paraphrase the question and break it into
“if I heard you correctly you wanted to know about (a), (b) and (c)”
…then make sure you answer all three elements. Alternatively if time is short ask the questioner to prioritize – which part would they like answered now and that you will follow-up with them later on the other elements.
The missed-the-point-completely-question. Be polite (however tempted you may be otherwise), thank the questioner and suggest that you follow-up afterwards.
The one-where-your-mind-goes-blank – it happens to the best of us. The word that was on the tip of our tongue suddenly disappears down a black hole. Admit it, better to acknowledge your mind has gone blank than to wing it, let the questioner know you will come back to them as soon as your memory re engages.