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The Seven Secrets of Handling Successful Questions and Answers
by Chris King

It depends upon the type of presentation you are giving, the time available, and your topic, whether or not you will be faced with questions you are expected to answer. To handle this possibly daunting feat, you should find my following suggestions helpful.

Repeat the question. Even though you heard the question, others in the room might not have, so repeat it for their benefit. Also, repeat it for your benefit. You may not be positive what the questioner is actually asking, so repeating it will give you the chance to clarify the meaning. It will also give you a bit of time to phrase your answer.

Practice answers before the presentation. As you are preparing your presentation, think of the questions that most likely would be asked. Then rehearse or outline your answers. This will cut down on your nerves and give you credibility and stature as the expert in this area.

Have questions ready. Besides rehearsing answers, it is a good idea to have questions that you would like to answer prepared. Often when we reach the question and answer portion near the end of a presentation, no one asks a question. At this point, you can say, “One question I am often asked is …” This usually breaks the ice and is followed by many more questions.

Control the questions. It depends upon your ease and whether or not you want to take questions during or at the end of your presentation. If I am giving a long workshop, I tell the participants at the beginning that I welcome questions throughout. The caveat here, however, is to make sure that you stay in control. Often there may be someone in the audience who keeps interrupting with questions and the rest of the participants begin to get antsy. At this point, I would say something like, “Why don’t we come back to that later.” Or, if it is outside the topic, “Why don’t you and I talk about that after the workshop?”

Admit when you don’t know the answer. Rather than guessing at an answer you are not sure about, admit that you don’t know the answer. You could ask the audience if anyone there might know the answer (which creates a hero among the participants), or ask the questioner for his/her business card and say you’ll find out the answer and get back to them with it. Just be sure you do follow up. It is another great way to enhance your image.

There are no dumb questions. Someone asking a question may feel like they are asking a stupid question. To encourage that person and others in the audience to feel good about posing questions, I always say, “That’s a good question.” It’s amazing how many excellent questions will follow.

Embrace the question and answer session. Why? Even though this portion of your presentation may be the most taxing for you in the beginning, it will help you with planning upcoming presentations. You will get a feel for what your audiences want to know and it will also give you more confidence as you become more at ease with speaking “on the spot.”

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