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Presentation Tip: Handling Difficult Questions

Poorly fielded questions can make or break an otherwise excellently delivered presentation. When you don’t know how to address concerns, your credibility as a speaker is reduced. Don’t shy away from answering questions. They can help clarify your information to the audience.

Preparation is key to make sure you can answer anything pertaining to your topic. Despite your best efforts, there are still questions that you may not have the answer for. Don’t resort to answering with filler words when you do encounter a difficult question.

Be honest about what you know and answer honestly.

Rogue Questions

A thoroughly planned and researched topic won’t leave any stone unturned. When you cover every possible area, then answering any related question shouldn’t be a problem. Preparation should include the limitations of your topic, and the planned time to answer questions about your presentation. If you do encounter a difficult question, simply focus on how to handle it rather than forcing yourself to come up with an answer.

Brand communications expert, Carmine Gallo, gives a few pointers on how to face these tough questions. First, listen to the question carefully. Take into account the acoustics of the room and the noise coming from the audience. Make sure you get the question right by repeating it back to the questioner. Once the question is clear, directly answer for the questions that you’ve prepared for.

Your answers should be brief and concise, keeping in mind your scheduled time. But if it’s beyond your scope, be prepared to how to handle it.

More Questions

According to leadership coach, Andrew Bryant, when you’re at a loss for words, it’s alright to say that you don’t know. This removes the stress of trying to grasp straws. But instead of stopping with this statement, restate the limits of your presentation. These limits were set in place to ensure that discussion of the topic will be organized and delivered within a reasonable timeframe.

Return to certain key points in your presentation to further explain why and how these limitations were set in place.

Trick Questions

Acknowledge every question that comes your way, even if you can’t answer them for different reasons. This includes inappropriate or ill-timed questions. If setting limits won’t stop interruptions, acknowledge the question but delay the answer. There are questions which require such a lengthy response, making your presentation look like a one-on-one discussion.

State politely that you’d like to give others the chance to ask their questions and that there will be another opportunity to contact you for further clarification. After entertaining all questions, make sure to end your Q & A session with your final message.

This appropriately concludes the discussion on your terms.

Pass the Test

Be prepared for what to say even if there isn’t a clear-cut answer. Unlike a real test, we don’t have the answers to everything. Listen to the question carefully and see if the content of your presentation already has the answers. And if not, focus only on what you know and why this works to everyone’s advantage.

Some questions can’t or shouldn’t be answered. But they still warrant your time and attention as the speaker, so treat every concern with respect. Once you’ve finished handling difficult questions, end the presentation with your final message.

With all concerns addressed, your listeners will find you more convincing and credible as a speaker.

 

References

Bryant, Andrew. “Presentation Skills – Dealing with Difficult Questions.” Self Leadership International. April 7, 2009. Accessed October 12, 2015. www.selfleadership.com/blog/training/presentation-skills-dealing-with-difficult-questions
Gallo, Carmine. “How to Handle Tough Questions.” Bloomberg Business Week. January 20, 2009. Accessed October 12, 2015.www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/jan2009/sb20090120_668348.htm

 

Featured Image: “Interviews” by Stephan Roehl on flickr.com

Skeletons in the Closet: Bury These 5 Presentation Horrors

Even the best speakers are haunted by their bad habits. If you don’t check yourself, these negative practices will rise from their graves to wreak havoc on your presentation. Following public speaking guidelines isn’t enough.

To be truly at your best, watch out for these five presentation horrors:

1. Smiling Too Much

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Smiling seems harmless enough. It helps you build rapport, while also reducing your anxiety and boosting your confidence as a speaker. However, there are instances where a smile may not be the best expression.

Discussing sensitive issues requires a somber face. A neutral expression works when you have to look professional and respectable. Familiarizing yourself with the topic helps you mark cues for the right tone and appearance at the right time.

2. Depending on Memory

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Looking down at your notes can actually save you in the middle of a presentation. If you’re not yet confident with your speech, it’s okay to keep a blueprint of your piece with you. Just don’t let your notes distract you from your actual delivery.

But if you’ve already mastered your pitch and you think a script will only ruin your train of thought, then disregard any written guides. Still, there are times when you have to return to your notes. This is acceptable when you’re citing an important quote or specific reference. Just don’t do it too often. Record yourself to know when to interject with your script. Listen to the recording and figure out where you can drop these lines.

3. Overacting

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Like oversmiling, overacting involves inappropriate movements that are otherwise helpful to your presentation. This usually happens when you try to incorporate humor. Humor engages the audience through light-hearted anecdotes. Exaggerating your body language to emphasize your jokes will definitely get a few laughs.

At the same time, check your timing as well. Tread carefully through delicate themes, especially if you want people to take what you’re saying seriously. Instead of always resorting to overacting to get attention, find different ways to convey deep emotions in your speech. For example, you can change your tone and display a variety of facial expressions instead of sticking to one.

4. Overusing Authority

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As we’ve established with the earlier points, determining your presentation’s ideal tone is important. Although you have full control over your speech, you can’t abuse that authority by going too off tangent from your more main ideas. While a fun story that has nothing to do with your subject might briefly entertain the crowd, it’s also very distracting.

People won’t be able to remember your message if you keep side-tracking their focus with random information. Channel these narratives to supplement your core message. Occasionally go back to your objectives to remind your listeners about them.

5. Asking Unplanned Questions

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Some presenters will ask unplanned questions when they’re faced with unexpected problems. This is supposed to deflect tension and draw responses from people, but it only worsens the situation. Unplanned questions tend to change the subject, making things even more awkward for the speaker.

You’ll have to accept that there are different audiences in every presentation. Some are expressive, while others prefer to listen quietly with little reaction. Sometimes it’s better to go on without pleasing everyone than risk making a fool of yourself.

Speech coach Gary Genard suggests that you start by asking the right questions. Focus on those that clarify important points and give your listeners a better grasp of your topic.

Stop these Horrors from Spreading!

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Before heading onstage, check your closet for any skeletons of bad presentation practices. Identify appropriate reactions and expressions you tend to make. Trying to lighten up the mood isn’t always going to work in a situation that requires seriousness.

Having a dynamic arsenal of words and gestures at your disposal is more impressive than monotony. There’s no harm in referring to your notes in case you forget what to say next. It’s better to have a backup plan than to fumble and be unable to recover at all. You may think amusing, unrelated stories and unexpected questions will keep your audience at the edge of their seats, but it might just turn them off.

Lastly, always stick to your original plan. This is much better than trying to please everybody by veering off topic and muddying up your message. Remove all your unproductive habits for more engaging pitches you can convert into sales.

People prefer a delivery that is both palatable and informative. Practice diligently to achieve that balance. To help you with your presentation needs, let SlideGenius experts assist you!

Share this spooky infographic and save your friends from these horrors!

References

“For Public Speaking Success, Ask the Right Questions!” The Genard Method. Accessed October 22, 2015. www.genardmethod.com/blog/bid/173002/For-Public-Speaking-Success-Ask-the-Right-Questions