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Fielding the Tough Questions in Presentations

The Q&A session has become a staple for almost any subject you will illuminate with a PowerPoint presentation. Oftentimes, this is a warmly welcomed opportunity for the presenter to clear up any points where the audience might be a bit fuzzy while going into more detail where audience members are interested.

However, as we all know or will eventually find out, presentations don’t always go exactly how we want them to, and sometimes we might face some tricky questions that catch us a little off guard, or intentionally antagonistic questions meant to incite an argument.

As the presenter–the person at the front of the room–you, by default, become the situation’s moderator. It’s up to you to keep the order in the room and the conversation civil and on topic. Most importantly, no matter how hard it may sometimes be, you should always strive to be the most mature, level-headed person in the room when you have the audience’s attention.

Stay on Topic

First off, don’t let audience questions derail your presentation. If appropriate for the topic and allotted time, set aside 5 to 15 minutes at the end of your presentation for a Q&A session. If audience members chime in during your presentation, politely ask them to wait until the end of your presentation.

If your audience refuses to listen to reason and grows unruly, we address that here.

 

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Topic

There may be a million other things you and your audience want to discuss, and they will likely make that apparent when given the opportunity to ask questions, but remember, you’re the one tasked with controlling the flow of the conversation.

Whenever engaging with an audience member, always be working the conversation (as naturally as possible) back toward the main point of your presentation. This way, you’re not wasting the time you’ve allotted to conveying your message.

 

ALWAYS take the high ground

keep-calm-and-keep-your-coolGetting visibly upset, agitated, or annoyed can strip any credibility you might have built up with your otherwise excellent presentation.

Similarly, even if an audience member really lobs one over the plate for you, don’t embarrass them for asking a stupid question. This may sound like your elementary school guidance counselor here, but although you may get a few laughs, anyone to be taken seriously will see your bullying as a sign of immaturity.

 

Take a deep breath before answering each question.

It’s common knowledge that our talking pace speeds up significantly when our adrenaline starts flowing, which happens often when we’re speaking in front of a crowd and our nerves are running high. breathe

Because of this, it’s easy for us to begin rambling when asked to speak off the cuff answering questions, so when you’re asked a question, even if it seems as simple as salt, pause, take a deep breath, and allow yourself a brief moment to formulate your response. You’ll find that this short pause will make your responses much more natural and articulate.

References:

“Keith Alexander Can Teach Us About Presenting to a Crowd.” SlideGenius. July 31, 2013.

What Kind of Voice do you Have?

Have you ever met someone who is ALWAYS obnoxiously loud when they talk? How about someone who is too quiet? Or maybe someone with a ridiculously deep voice? Similarly, have you ever wondered what people think of your voice?

Voice volume, melody, strength, variety, and overall quality is an essential factor when it comes to how people view us. In any situation, while at a party, in the movie theater, or more importantly, while giving a presentation, people around us are constantly judging how we move, what we say, and how we say it.

Specific to presentations, some believe that our content is most important. While content may be the foundation of the presentation, your delivery is what will decide what the audience think of you, and consequently how they act on your presentation.

Here are three categories of voice that you should focus on to better your next corporate presentation:

Volume

It’s relatively obvious that if your audience can’t hear you, what you’re saying will be of no value. On the other hand, you don’t want to be “that guy” that comes out screaming with unnecessary enthusiasm. Actually in that case, the entire audience is just thinking of ways to kill you, or at least shut you up, which is probably not the takeaway you want to leave them with. Volume should be appropriate in strength and intensity and should be varied in order to add emphasis and dramatic impact to your speeches. Inaudibility is often associated with unintelligibility. If you want to communicate with your audience, you must project your voice. A great way to judge your level is testing whether or not the person sitting in the last row can hear you.

Monotonous vs. Melodious

You are either monotonous or melodious. When you speak about something, it is important to focus on conveying life, color, and melody. We have all had the one professor in school or conference speaker whose sentences come out flat, wooden, and without variety. How wide would you say your vocal range is? Any good speaker will vary their speech within every few sentences and sometimes just for specific words or phrases. Think of your favorite song, and imagine how many peaks from high to low and there are in any given 5 seconds. Those changes in pitch are what make you like the song and bob your head and sing along. While you may not want your audience to bob or sing at what you’re saying, you sure do want their attention, so it is important to make sure you have the right pitch and tune. If you think your voice might be squeaky, harsh, high-pitched, or flat, then you should work on your pitch. This will help express the necessary emotion and conviction needed to keep your audience interested.

Quality & Clarity

The essence of your speaking sound is your voice quality. It expresses emotional color. Your voice coloring is what you use to convey your feelings, and these feelings should be positive when you address an audience. Your thoughts are a form of energy that you transmit to others. Through the quality of your voice, you actually establish the tone of your relationship with an audience or with an individual to whom you’re speaking.

Speaking in a clear, smooth, and enthusiastic voice will help create a unique and useful bond of friendship and acceptance with your listeners. Conversely, if your voice is nasally, raspy, or lifeless, you are doing something wrong. The primary cause of bad voice quality is tension; both emotional and physical.

A useful route to developing your voice quality and clarity lies in the awareness of the different roles you play during a usual day. As a parent, employee, supervisor, friend, lover, shopper, seller, you inherently cultivate unique personality traits and voice levels. To improve your voice quality, you must become aware of stress, muscle tension, and relaxation in each of these roles you live with.

When it comes time to present, in any medium follow these next few tips and ensure a reduction of tension condition:

  1. Relax your throat
  2. Gargle water
  3. Take deep breaths
  4. Smile, for a whole minute before your presentation

 If you reduce the tension in your voice, a pleasant tone will likely result which will in turn reel in your audience. Remember that the emotions and vocal colorings you express with your voice can arouse similar emotions in others.

 

Work Cited:

Your Speaking Voice.