What makes you nervous when presenting?
I asked this question to the participants of a workshop on stress and body language. Their most common answer was: questions from the audience.
Researchers tend to tense up when being asked something they don’t understand or don’t have a set answer to.
Answering questions in 5 steps
Let’s take a look at how to handle questions from your audience.
Step 1: Listen to the question
Truly listen to and keep eye contact with the person asking the question.
Step 2: Make sure the question is clear
Is the question clear to you, then go to step 3. If not, ask for further clarification.
Step 3: Repeat the question
Before answering the question, rephrase it once more using your own words. Look over to your audience and say: ‘The question is …’ Do this to ensure that everyone has heard and understood the question.
Step 4: Answer the question
Don’t be afraid to reflect on your answer.
Focus on what the person has asked, but don’t elaborate on side issues.
When answering, look towards your entire audience.
Because what will happen if you continue looking only at the person having asked the question? The others will feel that the question doesn’t apply to them and will begin talking to their neighbor or even grab their smartphone or tablet.
Step 5: Round off the question
Wrap up your answer with a summarizing statement. This is especially important in longer explanations.
You then look back at the person having raised the question and ask ‘Have I answered your question with this?’.
If he says or nods ‘yes’, then continue with the next question. If the answer is ‘no’, then go back to step 1.
Of course, don’t spend too much time on one person. You could always suggest further discussing the issue after your presentation.
What to do if you didn’t understand the question?
Or what if you don’t know the answer? Keep your eye out for an upcoming blog post on this topic, where we will show you how to best prepare yourself for any question.
(Photo: Questions by Derek Bridges)