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Answering the tough questions like a pro

Michelle Bowden is Australia’s presentation and influencing skills expert. She is the author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work and STOP! Your PowerPoint is Killing me! If you’ve decided to take a dive into presenting seminars to your prospects here are some tips to answer their questions with ease.

In all types of business presentations or meetings it’s important that you know how to answer the questions so that you don’t appear unprepared or less knowledgeable than you are. You don’t want to seem foolish or incompetent. In fact, for most of us the ideal scenario during the Q&A is that we showcase our professional expertise and respond to all the questions with confidence and ease—even if we don’t actually know the answer!

So the Q&A really is the time to remain calm and inclusive of your entire audience. This way you’ll be more likely to achieve what you want from the presentation.
There are four steps you can use to ensure you maintain rapport with everyone in the group throughout the Q&A section of your presentation.

  1. Acknowledge the question asker. First wait for the questioner to finish their question (within reason that is!), then say: ‘Important question Geoff, and the reason it’s important is because….’ This is called giving status: it’s where you compliment the question asker and make them feel special. Giving status to an audience member causes a positive feeling in your audience. It also encourages further questions because it demonstrates that you will reward questions. Also, it makes the question sound interesting to the whole audience and will draw them into wanting to know the answer.
  2. Paraphrase. This is where you repeat the question in your own words. You do this in case the audience didn’t hear the question and also to ensure that you heard the question and understood it correctly. Remember to also open your eye contact and body language out to the group as you repeat the question. You can use the Placater posture (arms outstretched and palms up and open) and make sure your body demonstrates your intention to be inclusive.
  3. Answer. Answer the question in an organised and structured way, so it’s easy for everyone in your audience to understand your point. Stick to the point and remember Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers famous comment: ‘There’s value in never using two words when only one will do’.
  4. Check. Confirm that the question asker is happy with your answer. You might like to nod your head or give some direct eye contact. Or you could ask, ‘How does that sound Lisa?’ or ‘Have I answered your question thoroughly enough Peter?’ This way, if Lisa or Peter are not happy with the answer they can help clarify with another question.

Michelle will be back next week with more presentation tips.

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Michelle Bowden

Michelle Bowden is Australia's expert on presenting persuasively in business. She's a best-selling, internationally published author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work. For more information visit michellebowden.com.au