Presentation Skills: Anyone For Questions?

By Morag Barrett on June 26, 2012

Posted by Morag Barrett | June 26, 2012Presentation Skills: Anyone For Questions?I occasionally hear the comment that the question and answer section of a presentation is to be avoided at all costs;  seen as a threat or an indication that the presenter didn’t do a good job.  I take the approach that giving the audience the chance to ask questions demonstrates quite the opposite.  If you engaged your audience, if they were interested in the content of your presentation, then they will have questions.  Questions can, quite honestly, have a lot of benefits all round.They are an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings, (yours or 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. Effectively handling the question and answer section is another key presentation skill.Don’t feel you need to be able to answer all the questions immediately – 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 question 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. Recognize 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 answer your point”that way you can continue with your planned outline without too many interruptions.Asking for QuestionsAsk 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 out loud.  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 or misunderstood their question.  Once you have responded 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 audience for their questions.  Be clear to provide additional contact information should they have questions etc after the event.Asking ” Does anyone have any questions before we break for lunch?” is likely to guarantee no questions, or the rest of the audience looking daggers at a person who dares to ask one!Related ArticlesTags »communicationPresentation Skills Share
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