I’m So Glad You Asked – Handling the Questions from Your Audience
“Are you the same Kelly Vandever who does stand up comedy?”
It was my first day, my first session teaching public speaking at Kennesaw State University.
The question came from one of the students who had googled my name while I was introducing myself.
(For those who are wondering, yes, there does exist a video online of a stand up act that I performed at the Punch Line comedy club. You can watch it here if you’re curious… and promise not to hold any of my jokes against me!)
My point is, that questions from today’s audiences are almost inevitable, particularly if you’re doing a good job of engaging them. With that in mind, here are a few ideas on handling questions from your audiences.
Encourage Your Audience to Ask Questions as You Go
Adult learners don’t want to hold their questions to the end. Unless you’re speaking to a humungous audience, take questions as they come up. That interaction with the audience will energize your presentation and keep audience members tuned into you content.
Stop and Really Listen to the Question
Make sure you understand the question before you answer it. Audience members will sometimes struggle to formulate a question. Paraphrase what you understood them to say to make sure you actually understand the question.
Repeat the Question
Unless you’re 100% sure that everyone in the room heard the question, repeat the question so that everyone can hear it. Repeating it, also gives you an extra few seconds to consider and formulate your answer.
Be Respectful, Even If the Audience Member Isn’t
Sometime it will be clear to you that an audience member wasn’t paying attention to your presentation and they’ll ask a question that you’d already addressed. Other times, you might find yourself with a combative audience member. Either way, maintain your composure and respectfully answer the question.
When an audience member acts like a jerk, and you treat that person respectfully, you’ll come out on top in the eyes of the rest of your audience. You can’t reach everyone. But don’t lose the good people you have reached by responding to a jerk by being a jerk.
Practice Answering the Question that You Just Dread the Thought of Your Audience Asking You
When rehearsing for your presentation, ask your friendly audience to throw some questions at you that you worry that you’ll be able to answer clearly and respectfully. Practice those responses and get feedback from your friendly audience to see how you come across. Listen to suggestions they may have for a smoother reply.
Take Specific Questions After the Presentation
If someone hi-jacks the question and answer period and starts going off on tangents, respectfully draw the person back to the topic and suggest that you follow up with each other after the presentation to discuss further.
If You Don’t Know the Answer, Don’t Fake an Answer
If you don’t know the answer be honest about it. If it’s something you can find the answer and get back to them with it, then say you’ll follow up – and do it!
Or you could also open the question up to the floor to see if there’s anyone else who knows the answer.
What ever you do, be honest with your audience.
End with Your Close – NOT Your Q& A Period
It’s customary to have a question and answer at the end of a program. But don’t let that be the very last thing in your presentation.
Instead, save some time at the end of your allotted time to end with a proper close. But set it up to let the folks know that after the Q&A, you’ve got some closing remarks.
For instance, I’ll usually say something to the effect…
“I want to wrap up my presentation by sharing one more story (or thought or idea) but before I do that, what question might you have on this topic?”
Then, after I’ve handled my last question, I say something like, “Before we finish today, I’d like to leave you with the rest of the story (or a final thought, etc.)…” That way the last thing they hear in the presentation is some call to action from me, not whoever randomly happens to ask the last question. Always save some time at the end of your presentation to do a proper close.
Questions from audiences are a great gift to you as a presenter. It gives you a chance to interact with your audience and learn what’s on their mind. We can really benefit as the presenter.
Question help your audiences apply what you’re sharing to their own world. If you answer their questions well, the audience appreciates and respects you more and is more likely to adopt your point of view.
So What Questions Do YOU Have about Questions?
Ask your questions in the comments and we’ll follow up!