Presentation Questions and Answers

Don’t Ask Me!

I’m Glad You Asked That Question

Answering questions in presentations can be challenging.

But you probably can’t avoid them, so try to use them to your advantage.

In this post we look at dealing with questions and answers as part of a presentation. Or Q&A as it’s often called.

Embrace Q&A

We’ll look at dealing with difficult questions later, but first, let’s consider the positives.

Audience questions should be welcomed. If nothing else, they show the audience is still interested in what you have to say. But so much more can be gained.

You can use questions and answers to make your presentation more of a conversation than a lecture. It will help you to connect with your audience. If your presentation is interactive, the audience are more likely to pay attention and to stay engaged … and to learn.

Being asked questions also allows you to understand whether the audience is taking on board what you are saying. Or it could enable you to expand on your subject.

And, maybe you could use the audience to your advantage. How about saying, “Oh, that’s a good question. Anyone got any thoughts on it?

Hopefully one or two will pitch in with comments. That will leave you time to think about your response, which can complement and expand on the audience inputs.

Planning Answers

Planning? Don’t you just wait to see if anyone asks a question?

Well, yes. If you like living life on the edge. But let’s look at a less exciting but more effective approach.

Are you going to tell the audience you’ll take questions at the end or invite them to ask at any point in your presentation?

Just taking questions at the end keeps everything neat and tidy and avoids you getting side-tracked from the flow of your presentation.

Of course, there’s always the risk that someone may ask a question part way through regardless. If it’s a business presentation, you’re not going to tell your boss or a potential client to wait until the end, are you?

Inviting questions at any point has risks. Too many questions and your presentation can be derailed completely. Particularly if the questions aren’t relevant to what you are discussing.

Perhaps the compromise is to ask for questions at the end of each part of the presentation, even if you simply ask, “Is everyone following this or would you like me to clarify any aspects?

Anticipate the Questions

Of course, you won’t be able to think about everything the audience may throw at you, but some questions may be easily anticipated. What questions would you ask if you were in the audience? Or ask a colleague to think of questions.

Unless you are a world expert, at some point in your life as a presenter, you’ll be asked a question to which you do not know the answer. Don’t bluff and bluster. Simply admit you don’t know and offer to find out and follow up after the meeting.

If you can take a colleague with you, who is knowledgeable on the subject, so much the better. You may be able to deflect the question to them.

I’m Sorry, I Don’t Understand

The question is confusing. Or the questioner speaks very quietly. Perhaps they have a strong accent.

You could say, “I’m sorry but I didn’t quite catch that.

Awkward though if they repeat and you are still mystified. So maybe then try, “If I understand correctly, the question is…”. Assuming there seems to be some degree of acknowledgment that you’ve grasped it, then go ahead and answer.

If it’s clear you’ve still misunderstood you can say, “I’m really sorry but I’m still not hearing you correctly. Can we catch up after the presentation please?

The main thing when answering questions is not to antagonise or embarrass the questioner – this will only result in the audience losing faith in you and more importantly what you are saying.

The Negatives of Q&A

Being asked questions while you are presenting can be disruptive and throw you off balance.

Depending on the context of your presentation, some questions may be loaded, asked in the hope of tripping you up.

Journalists are always on the lookout for a good headline, and luring some poor soul into an ill-thought-out response to a question is part of their toolkit.

Even in a business presentation there may be someone present with an agenda that hopes to profit from your discomfort in the face of a tricky question.

Sometimes questions are even asked that are completely unrelated to the subject, but the questioner is going to ask anyway.

Any Final Questions?

The reality is that you can’t escape questions. Even if you don’t invite them, a determined questioner won’t be put off. So you may as well embrace them.

Don’t rush to answer questions. Listen to them carefully. Then take a couple of seconds to think about the answer before you speak.

And finally … here are three tips from Dale Carnegie on how to handle Q&A.

(This post was last updated 29th May 2024)


Subscribe to our newsletter to receive blog updates.

Similar Posts