Anyone for questions? How to ask for questions in a presentation.

skyeteam presentation skills training

The question and answer session may be the best part of your presentation.  For some reason, many people fear questions or perceive them as a threat or an indication that they didn’t do a good job.

In fact questions demonstrate quite the opposite.  If you engaged your audience, if they were interested in your content, they will have questions.  Questions can, quite honestly, have a lot of benefits all round.

They are an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings, (yours or your those of your audience) and to perhaps further  interest your audience in your chosen topic by sharing some of the ‘nice to know’ or additional information that you could not include in the core content of your presentation.

Don’t feel you need to be able to answer them at the time – the opportunity to follow up afterwards is another chance to influence the decision or outcome you are aiming for.  If you do need to follow up after the event, make sure you get the full contact information of the person asking.  If you can, try to get the information for your whole audience, if they heard the answer it is good to be able to include them on the final answer.

When should you ask for questions?

This is really a personal choice and will also be influenced by the nature and content of your presentation.  If you require your audience to make a decision, for example, then it may make sense to wait until the end of the presentation in order that they have all the information necessary.

If, however, your focus is more on increasing understanding and learning about a topic you may want to allow questions as you go along so that you can correct misunderstandings or clarify as appropriate.

The important thing is to clearly state to your audience your preference and then make sure you stick to it. Recognise that even if you ask for questions at the end you may still be interrupted during the presentation itself.  In which case a useful technique is to have a flipchart to hand and write the question there to answer later on.  The audience then feels heard, confident that the question wont be forgotten and you can carry on as planned.  Also don’t hesitate to say something like

“excellent question, I will be covering that later on but please ask again at the end if I do not fully anwer your point”

that way you can continue with your planned outline without to much disjointed interruptions.

Asking for Questions

Ask open ended questions – ie

“What questions do you have?” rather than “Do you have questions?”

It may be a subtle distinction but trust me, I have met many awkward silences to the latter, whereas the former will usually result in some acknowledgement and conversation.

When a question has been asked ALWAYS repeat it.  This achieves a couple of things, the people at the back (or on the phone or video-conference) can now hear what was asked and therefore have context for your answer.  It also enables the questioner to restate if you have misheard their question.

Once you have provided your answer check that the answer you provided has met their need.

Don’t be afraid to signal if you only have “time for one more question” .  Once your question and answer section is complete, thank the individual and the audience for their questions.  Be clear to provide additional contact information if they have questions etc after the event.