Usually, the final section of your presentation is the question and answer section. While you have made an excellent presentation, here is another opportunity to leave your audience with a favorable and lasting impression. In a certain sense, handling questions in a “Q&A” is one of the most critical presentation skills. Let’s examine the formatting aspects of the “Q&A.”
You can use some of these presentation skills to control the process. For example, raise your own hand when you ask for their questions. This demonstrates that those who have questions will be recognized by raising their hands. This maintains orderliness and makes the process more comfortable for the shy attendees. Understand that it may take 15 to 20 seconds for someone to formulate and ask a question. Fill the pause with encouraging invitations, such as “This is a very engaged audience and I am looking forward to hearing your questions.”
When the first person raises their hand, acknowledge it: “I see one question over there, and I will take that one first. Are there any others?” Now, hands will be raised because someone has “broken the ice.” In turn, recognize others that have questions by saying something like, “Yes, here’s another… and another…” Then go back to the first hand that was raised and say, “We’ll begin with the first person who raised their hand. What is your question, please?”
Don’t begin to formulate your answer until you’ve heard and fully understood the full question. As you become ready to answer the question, remind yourself that presentation skills include listening skills, so listen carefully to the full question. Determine if it’s an information question or a challenging question. If it’s a challenging question, listen for and verify the underlying issue.
When the questioner has finished stating the question, rephrase it. Rephrasing the question has a benefit for the audience: it allows everyone in the room to hear it. But rephrasing also has a benefit for you. It keeps you in the position of presenter, exercising your presentation skills. It also gives you time to think about your answer. Then, if it’s an information question, give a straightforward answer. If you don’t know the answer, say you don’t know and promise to find out. Ask the questioner and anyone else who is interested to leave a business card with you so you can email the answer to them.
If you recognize it as a challenging question, remain calm. Respond to the issue rather than the challenge. One of the most common challenging questions is “Why are you proposing this?” Depending on the questioner’s tone and emphasis, this could be aimed at any of five common issues. Determine if it is a question that relates to:
• Priority (“Why are you proposing this and not something else?”)
• Feasibility (“How can we hope to accomplish this?”)
• Cost (“Why should we spend money on this?”)
• Timing (“Why should we do this now?”)
• Competence (“Who are you to propose this?”)
Having listened for the underlying issue, rephrase a challenging question in the most neutral fashion possible.
Question: Why are you proposing this?
Rephrase: Would it be accurate to say that you wonder if “We should act on this recommendation when we have so many other demands on us?
Then respond neutrally to the issue. Finish your response with a positive conclusion: “Given the situation, we can’t afford not to act on it.”
When you respond to a challenging question, you must tie the response to an audience benefit, preferably the benefit you’ve been offering them throughout the presentation. For example, “That’s how I think this recommendation will ensure our position in this market.”
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