You’ve honed a great presentation,  practised it and incorporated feedback, and now you’re ready to present it to an audience, whether virtual or real.

But, have you thought about the questions you might get asked?

For some people, few things are more terrifying than opening up the floor to audience questions. This anxiety usually comes from the fear that they’ll be asked a difficult question they don’t have the answer to.

As a presentation coach this is something I come across frequently with my clients. The fear is quite palpable. I have therefore designed methods that turn audience questions from the enemy into a trusted ally.

Prepare for the worst

A common mistake made by anxious presenters is to try and forget about what makes them anxious, such as the prospect of audience questions.

I can guarantee that method will have the opposite effect to the one desired.

Instead of shying away, prepare for the worst-case scenario questions.

It’s a sure-fire way to boost your confidence and make you feel bulletproof.

As part of my coaching I ask my clients to come up with THE 5 worst questions they really do not want to be asked.

mind gone blank audience questions embarrassing presentationFor this preparation to work, they might need to dig deep to find the worst questions. Sometimes it’s a simple question that requires a complex answer, sometimes it highlights a flaw in the talk you don’t want highlighted, or a gap in knowledge. Or perhaps there are commercial sensitivities you do not wish to share.

Whatever the questions, identifying them is great for several reasons:

  • You can draft killer answers for them
  • If there is one, you can address the elephant in the room in your presentation instead of trying to brush it under the carpet

As a result of this work, you’ll feel much more confident about not only handling questions, but also the content of your presentation.

Dealing with questions on the day – the 4A Approach

Whilst preparation plays a huge part in the success of your presentation, things can always go wrong on the night, and that’s ok. It’s how you handle them that makes the difference between success and failure.

What if someone asks you a question that you haven’t prepared for? What if it deals with an area you know nothing about? How do you deal with these scenarios on the night?

I have an approach I like to use, which works a treat. It’s called the 4 A Approach.

In short it goes like this:

  1. Acknowledge question. Don’t be afraid to repeat the question out loud or write it down to make sure you understand it.
  2. Throw it back to the Audience (when possible). This can be a great way to re-engage the audience too.
  3. Answer, and keep it short.
  4. Ask the questioner if their question has been answered.

Remembering this sequence can help you keep anxiety at bay during the Q&A section.

What happens when you don’t have an answer?

No-one expects you to have an answer to everything. Questions can sometimes truly come out of left-field after all!

When that’s the case, you can admit that you don’t know.

This is when point 2 of the 4 A Approach comes in handy: throw the question back to the audience. Perhaps there is someone in the crowd who knows it and can help you out of a hole.

You can also tell them that you will investigate the question further. Ask for their contact details. This is how you turn an awkward moment into a valuable connection. Remain confident!

Audience questions aren’t the enemy

Whether you are presenting virtually or face-to-face, I hope this blog has demonstrated some of the ways in which you can turn a fear into a positive.

audience questions difficult tips trainingWant to find out more about the other 11 Habits of Exceptional Presenters?

You can download my guide to the 12 Habits of Exceptional Presenters right here.

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