Answer unspoken questions

Audiences often have unspoken questions in their minds and become frustrated if the speaker neglects to answer them. You don’t have to be a mind-reader to make a calculated guess at these questions and build in the responses without waiting to be asked: Unspoken questions about YOU: audiences want basic facts about the speaker that will build their confidence in your credibility. Give them appropriate information and tell them what makes you uniquely qualified to talk about your subject. Unspoken questions about the topic: audiences don’t just want endless information, they want to be drawn in. Tell them why the topic is important for them and what makes it especially relevant for THEIR goals.  Unspoken questions about what happens next: audience hate to be left in the dark or confused. Always be clear about what you are asking them to do or in outlining the next steps i.e. who will do...

Deal with the unexpected

The best defence against disturbances, interruptions and objections is a clear, concise presentation or talk that holds the attention of the audience by meeting their needs and interests. However, as we all know, even well-laid plans do not always work out – people interrupt, ask unexpected questions, come late or have an objection to make. Rather than expending energy on worrying about what could go wrong, invest some time in preparing yourself to deal confidently with the things you cannot plan for. Your aim is to refuse to be side-tracked and to get back to your prepared material quickly. If you can do this without alienating those who unintentionally (or intentionally) disturb you, then so much the better. The more practise you get with these techniques, the more comfortable you will become at handling an audience in ways you never thought possible Coping with unexpected questions and disturbances Delay answering more difficult questions until afterwards but make sure you do get back to it. Postpone more complicated issues or move them to another arena by offering a separate discussion with the questioner. Reformulate difficult questions from your listeners into “who, what, where, when or how” questions and then answer yourself, with focus on the positive aspects Handling disturbances Try not to draw extra attention to the source of the disturbance but if a short, temporary disturbance cannot be ignored, wait until it has passed before continuing. Deal with more prolonged disturbances as promptly as possible by finding a suitable solution. Stay neutral and professional in tone, body language and facial expression Try our 5-Step Process for clarifying and dealing...

Prepare for questions

As you practise and gain experience as a speaker and presenter, your confidence in your ability to do a good job in delivering your material will grow. However, even those with a lot of experience often feel unsure about how to prepare for questions and worry about losing control during the question and answer period that follows. Whilst it is not possible to prepare for all eventualities, there is a great deal that can be done to reduce the risk of the unknown by having some sensible strategies in place…and you never know, you might just learn something important from one of your listeners! Prepare for questions in advance Use your audience analysis to predict the questions you think will be important to the audience. Typical questions that audiences will want to have answered in relation to the topic begin with who, what, where, when, why and how. Plan which questions you can answer with the presentation itself and which will then surely come afterwards, keeping 10% of your time in reserve.  Prepare your answers and also any back-up material you might need.  Agree rules and agenda at the start. Decide (and announce) if you will take questions throughout or if you would like people to wait until the end. Stay in control  Aim to keep things moving towards your desired outcome and achieve your purpose.  If people deviate from this agreement, remind them of the rules but quick questions can be answered immediately. Prepare a “bridge” to the discussion period, announcing the time available as well as desired or requested discussion topics. Manage questions in a disciplined manner:...

Analyse your audience

“Talk to people about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.” Benjamin Disraeli, 1804 -1888, British Prime Minister All too often, presenters and speakers become caught up in their own story and fail to find common ground with their audiences. This leaves listeners feeling confused, irritated, bored – or all three!  Knowledgeable experts can forget that audiences do not necessarily have the SAME level of knowledge and may fail to offer enlightening explanations. Those enthusiastic about their topics may cram in too much information in a desire to share everything they know. The best way to avoid falling into these traps is to carry out an analysis of your target audience, their needs, interests and motivation as the first step in your preparation.   Top tips to meet audience needs Analyse your target audience in advance and use the information to select the right material. Who are they, what motivates them, what do they know, which questions will they want to have answered? Have a clear and achievable outcome in mind. Express your outcome in terms of what the audience should do, say, think or feel. Answer unspoken questions about yourself or your topic at the start e.g. who is this person, why is this relevant for me…? Use an agenda: show them that you have a plan and a structure, referring back to it throughout the presentation. Let them know you have done your homework: demonstrate that you understand their viewpoint and connect to it. Focus on what they need to know and NOT what you feel compelled to tell them. Use their language: match your words and content...