Grant was a people-pleaser.
He’d offered to do the speech today simply to keep his boss happy.
At their last weekly department meeting Grant’s boss had put out a call: He needed a presenter to deliver a speech outlining the new department structure. Grant had never delivered a speech before but no one else had volunteered. The silence and long glances at the floor were finally broken when Grant raised his hand and said, “I’ll give it a try.”
“I’ll give it a try.” Words that Grant was already beginning to regret.
The speech was only 10 minutes long and contained basic information. Too easy. The tough part was every manager and team lead from all the other departments would be there. 30 minutes had been allocated for the question and answer session.
As Grant now stepped on stage he began to panic. How was he going to answer their questions? These were managers with up to 30 years experience. How could Grant even pretend to know more than them?
The 10-minute speech was uneventful. The information was delivered as planned, the only minor hiccup when Grant pronounced the project leader’s name incorrectly which caused the audience to stir. As Grant thanked his audience and asked if they had any questions hands quickly shot up across the room.
This was going to be a long half-hour.
Grant made his first mistake on question number one. One of the general managers asked Grant how the decision had been reached to restructure the department. The general manager was clearly upset about something and the abruptness of the question scared Grant into action.
Despite being unsure if he had heard the question correctly, and not being clear on what answer he was giving, Grant started to talk and tried his best to satisfy the questioner. The “answer” was long and winding and many audience members moved uncomfortably as they strained to understand what was being said. Grant and Manager traded Q’s and A’s back and forward for a good five minutes until it became clear the general manager wasn’t going to get an intelligible response.
Grant checked his watch. 25 minutes to go… 25 minutes of nightmares! He took the next question and followed a similar style of not answering it.
What did Grant do wrong?
There is no doubt that question and answer sessions can be the toughest part of your presentation delivery. It’s the audience’s chance to really test out your knowledge. They can ask you questions you don’t understand, don’t know the answer to, or you’re not comfortable talking about.
Question handling is tough, but by following some simple guidelines anyone can handle even the most difficult questions smoothly.
Only answer if you are sure you understood the question
When you are asked a question make sure you fully understand what you have been asked before you start to answer.
If you are unclear about something because of jargon or the length of the question, ask for the questioner to rephrase.
I’m not sure I follow your question. Could you please rephrase it?
I think I misunderstood something. Could you please ask your question in another way?
If the questioner’s voice is muffled or hard to hear, ask for them to repeat or clarify.
I’m sorry I didn’t catch all of that. Could you please ask your question again?
I missed some of your question. Could you please summarize it?
Once you understand the question, answer as quickly and clearly as you can. Taking a long time to answer, with wordy sentences, can often lead you off-track and prompt more questions related to topics that were irrelevant 5 minutes ago.
Answering succinctly respects the entire audience’s time and also allows you to quickly get to relevant follow-up questions.
Confirm after you answer
Ever notice that there is a lot of dead air after you answer questions? You’re waiting to see if the questioner has a follow-up question or comment and everyone else is waiting for you to move on.
After you answer questions it is important that you confirm. By confirming you make sure the questioner is happy with your response and you can quickly move on to the next question.
Did I answer your question?
Do you have any further questions?
Give this simple process a try next time and see how much better your question and answer sessions go.
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