The Ten Ps of Dealing with Questions


Presenters and those making speeches will frequently be faced with having to answer questions. Sometimes these will be simple questions asked at the end of your talk and lasting only a minute or two. At other times you may be involved in lengthy panel discussions that take place after a series of presentations. In any situation, though, you will want to answer questions well. Here is a ten point plan for dealing with questions and answers when you speak. I call it the Ten Ps of Question Handling.

1. Prepare
To be sure you will answer all questions well, you need to prepare as fully as possible for any potential question and answer session. Lack of preparation for dealing with questions will make you nervous and this will come across when you answer questions.

2. Predict
Try and predict all the questions you might get asked. In preparing your talk get friends and colleagues to ask you questions. In this way you will be in a more comfortable position when you face your real audience.

3. Practice
In the same way that you would practice your presentation, you should also practice a question and answer session. Practice will alert you to any problem areas and will increase your confidence.

4. Probe
Find out about your audience and the kind of things that interest them. This will enable you to work out the likely questions they may ask.

5. Prevent
Ensure your presentation answers the likely questions in advance. In this way you will actually prevent questions from being asked as your audience will already have had their points answered.

6. Pause
When you get a question, repeat it back to confirm you have understood what you are being asked. This also gives you a bit of thinking time and ensures the rest of the audience knows what you will be answering as they may not have heard the original question.

7. Paraphrase
If a question is vague or unclear paraphrase the question and turn it into one that you want to be asked and then answer your chosen question.

8. Pass the buck
If you get a persistent questioner, check with the audience whether or not they are happy for you to answer the questions. Otherwise you will alienate them. Usually your audience wants you to shut the awkward individual up!

9. Pathway
Use techniques to get the question back to your chosen subject. Remember your presentation's key message and wherever possible use questions to help you repeat that. Always beat a pathway back to your subject.

10. Part company
If in doubt, take questions 'off line' by agreeing to see the questioner at the next break. That way you get a chance to think.

Graham Jones runs The Presentation Business at http://www.presentationbiz.com which helps people become great public speakers.

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