Last week I taught a presentation skills workshop. The question that came up most? “How can I prevent being surprised by all the unexpected questions an audience might ask me?”
My response: “You can anticipate most of the questions you’ll get – and, quite bluntly, you must.”
Don’t be caught off guard. Before you speak to any group, write down a list of 5-10 questions they might ask you. Vary your prep questions. Don’t make it easy. Practice for the hard questions: tricky, difficult, ill-informed, hostile, confusing, long-winded, vague, rambling, misleading. The better you prepare for worst-case questions, the more confidence you’ll convey during your Q&A session.
Do a few trial runs at home or in your office. Keep tightening your answers. Respond to a negative question with a positive tone.
Above all, don’t come across as defensive. Pay attention to the sound of your voice when you answer. And pay attention to your body language. Please, do not cross your arms while you stand there listening to a challenging question!
Audiences have the right to ask questions. As the speaker, it’s your responsibility to answer those questions.
As Ambassador Carl T Rowan Jr once put it,
“There aren’t any embarrassing questions – just embarrassing answers.”
Make sure you’re not the speaker giving an embarrassing answer.
Spend as much time preparing for your Q&A as you do preparing for your presentation. Trust me on this one: You’ll be glad you did.
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