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9 Tips for Handling Public Speaking Questions
How you handle questions from an audience can often be thedeciding factor as to how your presentation is received. Ifyou're pitching for business, then it's absolutely vital tohandle questions well.
1. Be prepared for questions - When you write yourpresentation, think about what you're likely to be asked andwhat your answer is going to be. Maybe you won't want toanswer a particular question there and then, so think aboutwhat you'll say to satisfy the questioner.
2. Make it clear at the start - You may decide to takequestions as you go or at the end of your presentation.Whatever you decide, make it clear at the start and don'tchange your mind. I would suggest questions at the end in ashort presentation; if you take questions as you go, thenyour timing will get knocked out.And always remember, an audience won't forgive you fortaking half an hour when you were only scheduled to speakfor fifteen minutes.
3. Never finish with questions - Far better to ask forquestions five or ten minutes before the end, deal with thequestions and then summarise for a strong finish. Too manypresentations finish on questions and the whole thing goes abit flat - particularly if you don't get any.
4. Listen - When asked a question, listen and look like yourlistening. It may be something you've heard a million timesbefore. Treat the questioner with respect and don'ttrivialise their point.
5. Thank the questioner - It's only polite, it shows respectand it gives you a bit more time to consider your answer.
6. Repeat the essence of the question - Some people may nothave heard the question so your answer may not make anysense to them. It can also be irritating for them not tohear the question. Again, it gives you more time to think ofthe answer and it makes you look so clever and in control.
7. Answer to everyone - Don't fall into the trap of onlyanswering the questioner. If they happen to be near thefront then you could end up having a conversation with themand exclude everyone else.
8. Keep it simple - Many speakers, when it comes toquestions, have become more relaxed and the fact thatsomeone is interested enough to ask them a question, leadsthem to go on too long with the answer - DON'T.
9. Don't bluff or bluster - If you don't know the answer toa question, say so and find out. Suggest to the questionerthat you'll 'phone them or come and see them with theanswer. It can even be a good way to make further contactafter the presentation.
As we all know, it's possible that you may not be asked anyquestions and you then have that awkward silence. People may be thinking about what you've just said and mayneed more time to ask. They may also be a bit shy and maytake a few minutes to speak out. Why not have a question ofyour own prepared and say something like. "You may be askingyourself.........?"If you still fail to get any questions then go straight intoyour summary and closing statement.
Handling a question and answer session well, demonstratesyour professionalism and reflects on your message.
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