Handling questions and answers A question-and-answer period following your proposal or pitch benefits both you and your audience. It provides you with feedback indicating to what extent your listeners accept and agree with your proposal. It also lets you reinforce your message by addressing areas that concern the audience. And it benefits your listeners by giving them an opportunity to get clarification of ideas and data in your proposal.
Here are some tips for effectively dealing with audience questions:
- Plan for them. Announce at the outset of your speech that you will entertain questions. Plan a smooth transition between the conclusion of your proposal and the question-and-answer portion of the presentation.
- Anticipate questions. Try to anticipate the questions your audience will ask. One way is to rehearse your proposal before colleagues or friends and see what questions they have. This has an added benefit: It can indicate elements you’ve neglected to include in your proposal.
- Clarify the question. Before attempting to answer a question, be sure you understand what the questioner wants. If necessary, rephrase it, asking if your interpretation is correct. If you don’t know the answer, admit it, but tell the questioner you will find out the answer later and contact him or her.
- Don’t be defensive. Give your listeners the impression you welcome their questions and appreciate the opportunity to answer them. Your positive attitude can be the “icing on the cake” for a successful proposal.
- Align your answer with your main message. Rather than blurting out the first response that comes to mind, mentally evaluate how you can answer the question in a way that supports what you’ve said in your proposal.
- Disarm loaded questions. Occasionally a questioner may try to trip you with a loaded question—one based on false premises or irrelevant assumptions. Be polite, but don’t back down from your position. You can disarm the questioner by asking him or her to explain the question and share information.
- Divert irrelevant questions. Don’t waste time on questions that are out of place, even if you know the answers. Politely ask the person how the question bears on the proposal.
- Divide complex questions. If a questioner hits you with a multifaceted question, split it into components before answering it. This helps you, as well as other listeners.
- Summarize. Watch your allotted time. Before it expires, conclude by briefly summarizing your proposal. This way, you can control (and prepare for) the way your presentation ends. This is the final impression you leave on your audience, so make it positive and upbeat
To your speaking success