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: refuse politely but firmly to accept discussion points that are not relevant, accept one question at a time.
- Announce the close of the discussion in advance to allow for final questions and then summarise (repeat closing message, agreed action etc).
Prepare for questions from the audience is especaiily important in meetings and presentations – one of our expert coaches can support you when you have something important to get ready for.