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How to Handle Questions in a Presentation Open Forum

Your pitch doesn’t end with your last slide.

After delivering a successful presentation, you’ll often face a question and answer portion. For many presenters, this is a source of anxiety. Key points can be memorized and outlined, but you can’t do the same to other people’s inquiries.

Q&As are spontaneous, as the University of Leicester’s presentation guide indicates, so it’s best to prepare for any question. Although outlining your points can help you identify possible questions your audience might ask, you still need to expect the unexpected and know your topic inside out.

That said, you need to maintain proper presentation etiquette when addressing your audience’s comments.

We’ve compiled three things to help you during an open forum:

1. Accommodate Questions

Since questions supplement your presentation, take those that are directly related to your points as an opportunity to expound on your pitch.

Instead of restraining audience questions, welcome them – especially if they’re valid. People ask questions when something is unclear to them, or when they’re interested to learn more. Answering the ones they bring up in your Q&A allows you to fuel their interest by providing the information they need.

Of course, unrelated or unnecessary questions can’t be helped. A member of the audience may misunderstand you, and give you a question that doesn’t directly match your core message, but is still somewhat related to what you were saying.

Taking that kind of question still lets you explain your points better.

2. Be Honest and Polite

Although most inquiries can strengthen your presentation, sometimes, you’ll come across some inappropriate questions. These may be about a different topic entirely, or an unnecessary comment.

When dealing with rude audience members, remember to maintain your composure. The negative image of losing your temper will reflect on you, not your listeners. Handle inappropriate questions with honesty and politeness. You can briefly inform the person that their question threw you off, and ask for other questions.

Being honest and polite will help you keep your integrity as a speaker in front of everyone. You’ll stay on your intended topic without hurting any feelings.

3. Say ‘I Don’t Know’ – Without Saying It

In line with being honest, it’s alright to admit that there’s a limit to what you can answer. On the other hand, directly saying ‘I don’t know’ can send the wrong message by making it seem like there wasn’t enough effort on your part.

In her Forbes article, women’s leadership speaker and Forbes contributor Selena Rezvani provides five alternatives for those times when you’re stumped for an answer. Thank the person for their question. This can serve as valuable input in improving your pitch for future reference.

Promise the audience that you’ll find an answer to their query instead, but state that at the moment you don’t have it yet. A simple statement like, “I haven’t encountered that yet. Thank you for your output, I will work on it.” can mean a lot to your listeners.

Doing this saves you from giving away incorrect information and losing credibility. People will appreciate this humility rather than a forced façade of expertise in something you’re unsure of.

Conclusion

Dealing with the audience’s questions can be a tricky task, but given the right answers, you can use these to your advantage.

Welcome any question that can help improve your pitch. These queries are a sign of interest, and you could be able to convert your leads just by answering them.

Be diplomatic with inappropriate questions, but be honest in telling your audience that you’d prefer not to answer it. Admit the limits of your current knowledge, but always promise an answer in the future.

Face up to the challenge of a good question. Take it as a chance to improve your presentation and generate sales.

 

Resources:

“Responding to Questions Effectively.” University of Leicester. Accessed December 8, 2015. www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/presentations/questions

Rezvani, Selena. “Five Alternatives to Saying ‘I Don’t Know’.” Forbes. August 8, 2014. Accessed December 8, 2015. www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/08/08/five-alternatives-to-saying-i-dont-know

Featured Image: “Questions” by Derek Bridges on flickr.com

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Frequently Asked Questions in a Business Presentation

Your Q&A with the audience is the best way for you to get feedback.

Being offered feedback makes your presentation more engaging and helps your prospects get clarification from points you’ve made.

Receiving feedback from your audience gives you insights on how you can make better presentations in the future.

You won’t be able to cover every detail during your business presentation, so it’s important to always anticipate questions beforehand.

Question #1

What do you do?

The beginning of your slide should be an introduction that contains your contact details and a brief primer to your company.

But this kind of information isn’t enough for the audience to know what your business is all about.

Your deck should cover every possible aspect of the purpose, service, and benefit that you provide while avoiding delays caused by an overly detailed discussion.

If you have to re-explain your introduction towards the end of your business presentation, don’t assume that the audience just didn’t pay enough attention.

This type of question could either mean that you didn’t spend enough time to explain your purpose, or that your audience simply wants to know more details.

Question #2

What’s your product?

This question could be phrased in several ways: how this product benefits your prospects, how useful it is, and if it’s worth the investment. In other words, why should we choose you?

You should be able to say yes to all the questions and provide concrete reasons to support your claims.

Going over this type of question is good since this means that your audience is curious about your product.

This is a way for you to slowly build up their trust. Knowing your product well adds to your credibility.

Seal the deal by convincing your prospects that the product is worth their time and resources.

Question #3

How long does it take?

This asks for specificity. It shows that the audience is thinking, How soon will I start seeing results?

Provide a financial projection that gives a realistic assessment of your project.

Tell them when they can expect to see results and only promise what you can deliver on time on a realistic budget.

Scott Gerber, entrepreneur and angel investor, learned the hard way from being rejected by investors for his company.

One of the most important lessons he learned was that VC’s that have seen it all can gauge the feasibility of your plans, so be realistic and avoid aiming for a multimillion investment without the experience to back it up.

You’ll know how eager your audience is when you hear them ask about your project timetable.

Being asked this at the end of your presentation usually means you’ve generated enough interest that’ll soon translate to sales.

Final Thoughts

Keep your answers short and concise since you’re towards the end of your presentation.

Shorter answers are easier to remember and will help end your presentation on time.

The responses you receive will help you gauge your own persuasiveness as a speaker.

So don’t be content with a silent response, get the ball going by answering some of these questions by reiterating your main points.

The success of your pitch depends on how well you respond to these FAQ’s.

Don’t let the simplicity of these questions fool you, prepare how to answer them beforehand.

 

References

Gerber, Scott. “6 Steps to the Perfect Pitch.” Entrepreneur. May 21, 2009. Accessed January 5, 2016. www.entrepreneur.com/article/201826
Pivovarov, Artur. “Presentation Skills. Unit 8: Dealing with Questions.” SlideShare. May 1, 2012. Accessed November 4, 2015. www.slideshare.net/ArturPivovarov/unit-8-12763217

 

Featured Image: “WSIS Forum 2015 Final Brief” by ITU Pictures on flickr.com

Staying Relevant: The Questions You Need to Ask before a Presentation

Why should I care? Everyone asks this question before making a decision.

Why should I get myself a new phone?”
Why should I care about this new car fuel?”
Why should I buy a $3 custom hand-crafted coffee instead of an instant mix?”

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According to author Jim Aitchison, these questions are all based on standards that people have built over the course of their lives.

If something they see meets these standards, it becomes relevant to them. This also applies to clients during business presentations: They need to know why they should care about your topic.

As presenters, it falls on you to make your pitch relevant. Relevance allows you to establish why the topic must matter to the people hearing it. If your topic offers no clear benefits or implications, you won’t establish a strong connection with your audience. Without that connection, it becomes harder for the audience to spend time listening to your pitch and buy your idea. Get an idea of your client’s standards to find out how you can

Get an idea of your client’s standards to find out how you can relate to them.

People Want Benefits

Your audience spends time and money to hear you out. Give them something interesting in return. Brand communication expert Carmine Gallo suggests explaining what your pitch means for them will immediately make your topic and presentation more relevant.

They Need To Connect the Dots

Now that you’ve presented what your topic is, tell the audience what they get out of it. Give a concise and exact description of what your idea does (Sullivan, 2008). Visual demonstrations can do more for you than verbal explanations can.

Will your new computer parts allow people to work faster? Will your new earning figures translate to tangible and enjoyable gains for the company? Answering these questions can tell interested parties why they should approve your proposal. Everything relies on your ability to connect the dots and establish how your topics affect the people you present it to.

They Want to Have Fun

When Steve Jobs presented the iPod Nano in 2005, he asked the audience what that smaller right-hand pocket inside your pants was for. Once that left the audience guessing, he pulled the device out of that pocket.

Jobs brought up a seemingly overlooked part of everyday fashion by making it useful and relevant. He presented a simple fun fact about his company’s new device instead of merely describing it verbally for a more memorable performance.

Your clients are ultimately the ones that will either approve or reject your pitch. Getting that approval and investment is the bread and butter of any salesperson.

Presenters must make an effort to make their topics relevant whenever possible. Find out which standards your clients use when making their decisions. Then, fine tune your business presentation’s content.

Convince your clients that their hard-earned money will be well invested and have tangible benefits for everyone involved.

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References

Adding Visuals to Your Technology PowerPoint.” SlideGenius, Inc. Accessed May 25, 2015.
Aitchison, J. (2004). Cutting Edge Advertising: How to Create the World’s Best Print For Brands in the 21st Century. Singapore: Prentice Hall.
Gallo, C. (2010). The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. McGraw-Hill.
The Question to Answer for Effective Business Presentations.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 25, 2015. Accessed May 25, 2015.

What Breaking Bad Can Teach Us about Closing a Presentation *No Spoilers!*

Breaking Bad, AMC’s hit crime drama we’ve all come to know, love, and mournfully wave goodbye too, ended two weeks ago in a (without giving too much away) justified, epic climax after five seasons of watching Walter White (A.K.A. Heisenberg) turn from sheepish high school chemistry teacher to roaring meth kingpin.

For those of you who haven’t seen BrBa to its bitter-sweet end, I won’t go into details. What I will say of it is that I was thoroughly pleased with its conclusion, but not altogether satisfied, which is exactly what a great ending should be.

Ending our presentations requires the same careful planning. The show’s infamously meticulous Executive Producer Vince Gilligan put a great amount of thought and effort into the show’s final chapter, and that’s because he knows what his audience is going to remember.

There’s a famous saying in the sports world: “You’re only as good as your last game.” From this, we can take away that we’ll be remembered for our most recent victory and defeat. Our significance is who we are today. For a TV show–and for a presentation–the finale, or the closing, will be what is most remembered.

Even if the first 90 percent of your presentation is brilliant, but the last 10 percent is a total wash, guess what they’ll remember from the presentation? The horrific ending. Fair? maybe not, but definitely the reality.

So how to make sure your audience is left with the perfect ending? Here’s a few things Breaking Bad executed flawlessly that we can work into our presentations.

Leave Your Audience Wanting More

I previously stated that Breaking Bad’s ending was fantastic, yet not entirely satisfying. This is because, to me, the show ended at its peak, which I believe is precisely what Gillian planned. The series had a great story arc that resolved all issues, but we all still wanted the show to go on.

You don’t want your audience counting the minutes until you stop talking by the time you’re on the later half of your presentation. In fact, you should end the presentation saying everything you need to say, but your audience wants to keep listening. This will not only have them leaving with a favorable impression of you, but it will keep you and your presentation on their minds, ultimately leading to your information being better retained.

Don’t leave loose ends

There’s a big difference between a show ending at its peak and one that ends open-ended and often confusingly (I’m looking at you, Lost).

Just like this confusing promotional poster, Lost's conclusion left watchers scratching their heads.
Just like this confusing promotional poster, Lost’s conclusion left watchers scratching their heads.

Make sure everything in your presentation is adequately addressed and all questions answered. Many presentations leave their audience almost more confused that when the presentation started. A great way of ensuring your audience understood what you had to say is to leave time at the end for a Q&A session. At SlideGenius, we recommend to allot an equal amount of time for your Q&A session as for your presentation.

Hammer home your message

Just like Bogdan's eyebrows, our endings
Just like Bogdan’s eyebrows, our presentation’s message in our conclusion should be apparent and unavoidable.

Breaking Bad brought it all back out of the wood works for the finale. Characters we hadn’t seen in a couple seasons come back to life to be part of this modern-day western, and the episode even opens with Walter White back in his early meth-cooking days, where he still lies to his wife about having to work late at the car wash for its egotistical owner Bogdan. Don’t just end, recap. Remind them of your key points and overall message. Ending on your last point will likely reinforce the idea that the last point is the oly thing to take away, when it’s usually just one of many that you made.