You’re in front of a large audience. The presentation is on a roll. You are in a rhythm that feels right to you and your confidence is building. Suddenly a hand shoots up – too obvious to ignore. You finish your thought and decide to take the question.
What do you dread the most?
Questions, even well intentioned ones, can be a challenge for presenters. Having a collection of responses at the ready will help decrease any hesitation you feel about taking questions from your audience. Here are 10 of my favorite responses to questions, depending on the situation. For my Question Cheat Sheet, click here , print a copy and leave it on your presentation table for quick reference when a question arises.
1. Thank you for your question.
Avoid saying, “That’s a great question,” unless you will respond to each question with that same descriptor.
2. Let’s ask the audience for a response first. Turn and talk with your neighbor about that for a moment.
This gives you time to take a deep breath and think about your answer. Then you can ask people to share out and add your own answer if necessary.
3. I’d like to clarify with a few follow-up questions.
Ask for more information so you are fully informed and not making assumptions or responding to a question that was misleading.
4. I will give you a short answer now, but address it in more depth later today.
Don’t just put them off until later, as it doesn’t affirm their need to be heard.
5. I’d love to give you a detailed answer, so will you please come see me at the break? Your audience will love you for this if it is a question that is very unique to that individual or off-topic.
6. Would you please write that question on a sticky note and place it on our parking lot chart? I promise to address it a bit later.
Before you start your presentation, set up a chart on the wall where people can post their questions. Be sure to check it several times throughout your session. You can also use technology for this, such as www.todaysmeet.com
7. I can hear the frustration (anger, worry, etc.) in your question.
Acknowledge the emotion before moving ahead with your answer. In doing so you are honoring what they are feeling, rather than appear to be brushing it off.
8. I’m not sure of the answer, but I will look it up and get back to you.
Admitting this shows the audience your human side and your willingness to be vulnerable. This is especially helpful if you are asking them to be vulnerable in learning something new or accepting a major change.
9. I don’t have the answer on the tip of my tongue, but I know where to access it. Let me get back to you with it at the break.
Your audience doesn’t expect you to have every fact memorized. It is completely acceptable to look up references, research, minute details - just be sure to follow through.
10. Does anyone in the audience want to share their answer to this?
Depending on your audience, you may have experts or local authorities who are in a better position to answer the question. You may also need to be in sync with their policies or positions.
For additional ideas, gift yourself a copy of my book Caffeinated Learning. You (and your audiences) deserve it! So do your colleagues or staff - a great holiday gift!
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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