Handling Questions Effectively

Presentations are usually followed by a question answer session. This could be the most interesting part of your presentation as it helps you to clarify the content of your presentation and to interact with your audience meaningfully. However it could be your worst nightmare if you are not able to handle the questions well. Preparation for this session will go a long way in aptly answering the questions .

 Here are the tips for effectively responding to questions, especially the difficult ones:

  1. Always remain calm. Avoid getting perturbed or defensive.
  2. Be prepared. Think of the possible questions and rehearse the answers even before the presentation session.
  3. Lay down the rules in the beginning. Let the audience know what type of questions will be answered at what point of time. Questions that require clarification could be answered during the presentation and those that require additional information could be answered afterwards.
  4. Maintain control over the questioning. Limit the number of questions a person can ask. Allow only one person to speak at a time. Give a chance to every member in the audience to ask questions
  5. Listen to the entire question, understand it, re-phrase and repeat it to the audience if necessary before you answer the question.
  6. Answer the question by focusing your attention on the questionner for one-fourth of the time and on the audience the rest of the time.
  7. If, you do not know the answer, be honest. However you can offer to find out the answer or suggest the source from which the person could get it. Don’t apologize for not knowing the answer.
  8. To answer a person who heckles you with provocative or disruptive statements – do not repeat what has been put to you unless the question or statement is to your benefit. Review the statement looking for the underlying motive. Use your analysis of the statement, to rephrase it as a question so that the content is no longer antagonistic to your own position.
  9. If you think a heckler is trying to be merely disruptive through his question, remain calm and ask him what his answer would be. Once he has had his say or you find the rest of the audience getting restless, close with a polite “I will have to give a chance to others to ask their questions” and move to the next question.
  10. 9.With a person who is trying to show off or deliberately trap you into a mistake, again wait till the statement or question is complete, re-frame the phrase asking whether you have understood it right and answer only if you are sure of the facts. If not, you can say something like “That is an interesting idea. I’ll have to look into it when we take a break”.
  11. The best way to deal with absolutes like “Everyone knows that”and “It’s quite obvious that” is to be calm and ask for validation of the statement.
  12. When a person strongly disagrees with you and refuses to stop arguing a point with you, you could respond, “Thank you for your opinion, I accept that there are different viewpoints on this issue.” Insist that time constraints mean that you must move to the next question.
  13. If a person is rude or provokes you with a contentious question, calm yourself and then answer the question to the best of your ability. Ignore the personal, embarrassing comments and questions.
  14. Even if the audience is not in agreement with your answer but you are sure of your facts, stand your ground in a reasonable manner. If you are wrong have the humility to accept it.
  15. Although some people get a perverse pleasure from putting others on the wrong foot, and some try to look smart in front of the boss, most people ask questions from a genuine interest. Questions do not always mean you did not explain the topic well , but that the audience interest is deeper than that of the average audience.

The key to an effective conclusion to a presentation is to speak with conviction and answer with confidence.

Dr Vinaya Prabha V Baligar