160 Questions to Ask After a Presentation

Asking questions after a presentation isn’t just a formality; it’s a gateway to deeper understanding, reflection, and connection.

Whether you’re seeking clarity, offering feedback, or probing into the thoughts and processes behind the content, the right questions can turn a routine presentation into a lively discussion. From engaging with the presenter’s ideas to sparking new insights, follow-up questions are the hidden keys that unlock a world of learning and collaboration.

Table of Contents

Questions to Ask After a Presentation for Feedback

Questions to ask after a presentation interview, questions to ask students after a presentation, questions to ask after a research presentation, questions to ask after a business presentation, questions to ask after a marketing presentation, questions to ask after a book presentation, reflection questions to ask after a presentation, frequently asked questions, is there an etiquette for asking questions in different cultures or settings, what if the presenter answers my question unsatisfactorily.

  • Can you summarize the key points of the presentation?
  • What aspect of the presentation did you find most engaging?
  • Were there any areas that were unclear or confusing? If so, what were they?
  • How would you rate the overall organization and flow of the presentation?
  • Did the visual aids (such as slides or charts) enhance your understanding of the topic? Why or why not?
  • Did the presenter maintain good eye contact and use body language effectively?
  • Was the presenter’s tone and pace suitable for the content and audience?
  • Were there any statistics or facts presented that stood out to you? Why?
  • Did the presenter address potential counter-arguments or opposing views adequately?
  • Were the objectives of the presentation clearly stated and met?
  • How well did the presenter handle questions or interruptions during the presentation?
  • Was there anything in the presentation that seemed unnecessary or redundant?
  • What would you suggest to improve the presentation for future audiences?
  • How did the presentation change or influence your thinking about the subject?
  • Did the presentation feel tailored to the audience’s knowledge and interest level?
  • Was there a clear and compelling call to action or concluding statement?
  • Did the presentation feel too short, too long, or just the right length?
  • What was your overall impression of the presenter’s credibility and expertise on the subject?
  • How would you rate the relevance and importance of the topic to the audience?
  • Can you identify any biases or assumptions in the presentation that may have influenced the message?
  • How did you determine what content to include in your presentation?
  • Can you explain the rationale behind the structure and flow of your presentation?
  • What challenges did you face while preparing this presentation, and how did you overcome them?
  • Were there any points in the presentation where you felt you could have elaborated more or less? Why?
  • How did you decide on the visual elements and design of your presentation?
  • Can you describe your intended audience and how you tailored the content to engage them?
  • How did you ensure that the information presented was accurate and up-to-date?
  • Were there any counter-arguments or opposing views on this topic that you considered including?
  • How would you adapt this presentation for a different audience or context?
  • How do you handle unexpected questions or interruptions during a presentation?
  • Can you give an example of how you’ve handled negative feedback on a presentation in the past?
  • How do you measure the success of a presentation? What metrics or feedback do you seek?
  • What techniques do you use to engage an audience that may not be familiar with the topic?
  • How do you balance the need to entertain and inform in a presentation?
  • How do you prioritize information when you have a limited time to present?
  • What strategies do you employ to ensure that your main points are memorable?
  • How do you deal with nerves or anxiety before or during a presentation?
  • Can you describe a situation where a presentation did not go as planned and how you handled it?
  • How do you keep up with the latest trends and best practices in presenting?
  • Is there anything you would change about this presentation if you were to do it again?
  • How did you feel about the presentation? Were you confident or nervous, and why?
  • What was the main message or goal of your presentation, and do you think you achieved it?
  • How did you decide on the structure of your presentation?
  • What research methods did you use to gather information for this presentation?
  • Were there any challenges you encountered while preparing or presenting, and how did you address them?
  • How did you ensure that your visual aids or multimedia elements supported your key points?
  • What part of the presentation are you most proud of, and why?
  • Were there any areas where you felt uncertain or that you would like to improve upon for next time?
  • How did you tailor your presentation to fit the knowledge level and interest of your audience?
  • What techniques did you use to engage the audience, and how do you think they worked?
  • How did you practice your presentation, and what adjustments did you make as a result?
  • Did you feel the time allotted for your presentation was sufficient? Why or why not?
  • How did you decide what to emphasize or de-emphasize in your presentation?
  • What feedback did you receive from peers during the preparation, and how did you incorporate it?
  • Did you have a clear conclusion or call to action, and why did you choose it?
  • How do you think your presentation style affects the way your audience receives your message?
  • What would you do differently if you were to present this topic again?
  • Can you reflect on a piece of feedback or a question from the audience that made you think?
  • How has this presentation helped you better understand the subject matter?
  • How will the skills and insights gained from this presentation experience benefit you in the future?
  • Can you elaborate on the research question and what prompted you to investigate this topic?
  • How did you choose the methodology for this research, and why was it the most suitable approach?
  • Can you discuss any limitations or constraints within your research design and how they might have affected the results?
  • How do your findings align or contrast with existing literature or previous research in this field?
  • Were there any unexpected findings, and if so, how do you interpret them?
  • How did you ensure the reliability and validity of your data?
  • Can you discuss the ethical considerations involved in your research, and how were they addressed?
  • What are the practical implications of your findings for practitioners in the field?
  • How might your research contribute to theoretical development within this discipline?
  • What recommendations do you have for future research based on your findings?
  • Can you provide more details about your sample size and selection process?
  • How did you handle missing or inconsistent data within your research?
  • Were there any biases that could have influenced the results, and how were they mitigated?
  • How do you plan to disseminate these findings within the academic community or to the broader public?
  • Can you discuss the significance of your research within a broader social, economic, or cultural context?
  • What feedback have you received from peers or advisors on this research, and how has it shaped your work?
  • How does your research fit into your long-term academic or professional goals?
  • Were there any particular challenges in conveying complex research findings to a general audience, and how did you address them?
  • How does this research presentation fit into the larger project or research agenda, if applicable?
  • Can you provide more insight into the interdisciplinary aspects of your research, if any, and how they contributed to the depth or breadth of understanding?
  • Can you elaborate on the primary objectives and expected outcomes of this business initiative?
  • How does this strategy align with the overall mission and vision of the company?
  • What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you’ll be monitoring to gauge success?
  • Can you discuss the risks associated with this plan, and how have you prepared to mitigate them?
  • How does this proposal fit within the current market landscape, and what sets it apart from competitors?
  • What are the potential financial implications of this plan, including both investments and projected returns?
  • Can you provide more detail about the timeline and milestones for implementation?
  • What internal and external resources will be required, and how have you planned to allocate them?
  • How did you gather and analyze the data presented, and how does it support your conclusions?
  • How does this proposal take into account regulatory compliance and ethical considerations?
  • What are the potential challenges or roadblocks, and what strategies are in place to overcome them?
  • Can you explain how this initiative aligns with or affects other ongoing projects or departments within the company?
  • How will this plan impact stakeholders, and how have their interests and concerns been addressed?
  • What contingency plans are in place if the initial strategy doesn’t achieve the desired results?
  • How will success be communicated and celebrated within the organization?
  • What opportunities for collaboration or partnership with other organizations exist within this plan?
  • How does this proposal consider sustainability and the potential long-term impact on the environment and community?
  • How have you incorporated feedback or lessons learned from previous similar initiatives?
  • What are the key takeaways you’d like us to remember from this presentation?
  • How can we get involved or support this initiative moving forward?
  • Can you elaborate on the target audience for this marketing campaign, and how were they identified?
  • What are the main objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) for this campaign?
  • How does this marketing strategy align with the overall brand values and business goals?
  • What channels will be utilized, and why were they chosen for this particular campaign?
  • Can you discuss the expected return on investment (ROI) and how it will be measured?
  • What are the creative concepts driving this campaign, and how do they resonate with the target audience?
  • How does this campaign consider the competitive landscape, and what sets it apart from competitors’ efforts?
  • What are the potential risks or challenges with this marketing plan, and how will they be mitigated?
  • Can you provide more details about the budget allocation across different marketing channels and activities?
  • How have customer insights or feedback been integrated into the campaign strategy?
  • What contingency plans are in place if certain elements of the campaign do not perform as expected?
  • How will this marketing initiative be integrated with other departments or business functions, such as sales or customer service?
  • How does this campaign consider sustainability or social responsibility, if at all?
  • What tools or technologies will be used to execute and monitor this campaign?
  • Can you discuss the timeline and key milestones for the launch and ongoing management of the campaign?
  • How will the success of this campaign be communicated both internally and externally?
  • How does this marketing strategy consider potential regulatory or compliance issues?
  • How will the campaign be adapted or customized for different markets or segments, if applicable?
  • What lessons from previous campaigns were applied in the development of this strategy?
  • How can we, as a team or as individuals, support the successful implementation of this marketing plan?
  • What inspired the main theme or concept of the book?
  • Can you describe the intended audience for this book, and why they would find it appealing?
  • How did the characters’ development contribute to the overall message of the book?
  • What research was conducted (if any) to ensure the authenticity of the setting, characters, or events?
  • Were there any challenges or ethical considerations in writing or presenting this book?
  • How does this book fit into the current literary landscape or genre? What sets it apart?
  • What do you believe readers will find most engaging or thought-provoking about this book?
  • Can you discuss any symbolic elements or literary devices used in the book and their significance?
  • How does the book’s structure (e.g., point of view, chronological order) contribute to its impact?
  • What were the emotional highs and lows during the writing or reading of this book, and how do they reflect in the story?
  • How does the book address or reflect contemporary social, cultural, or political issues?
  • Were there any parts of the book that were particularly difficult or rewarding to write or read?
  • How does this book relate to the author’s previous works or the evolution of their writing style?
  • What feedback or responses have been received from readers, critics, or peers, and how have they influenced the presentation?
  • What are the main takeaways or lessons you hope readers will gain from this book?
  • How might this book be used in educational settings, and what age group or courses would it be suitable for?
  • Can you discuss the process of editing, publishing, or marketing the book, if applicable?
  • How does the book’s cover art or design reflect its content or attract its target readership?
  • Are there plans for a sequel, adaptation, or related works in the future?
  • How can readers stay engaged with the author or the book’s community, such as through social media, book clubs, or events?
  • How do you feel the presentation went overall, and why?
  • What part of the presentation are you most proud of, and what made it successful?
  • Were there any moments where you felt challenged or uncertain? How did you handle those moments?
  • How did you perceive the audience’s engagement and reaction? Were there any surprises?
  • What feedback have you received from others, and how does it align with your self-assessment?
  • Were there any technical difficulties or unexpected obstacles, and how were they addressed?
  • How well did you manage your time during the presentation? Were there areas that needed more or less focus?
  • How did you feel before the presentation, and how did those feelings change throughout?
  • What strategies did you use to connect with the audience, and how effective were they?
  • Were there any points that you felt were misunderstood or could have been communicated more clearly?
  • How did the preparation process contribute to the overall success or challenges of the presentation?
  • What did you learn about yourself as a communicator or presenter through this experience?
  • Were there any ethical considerations in the content or delivery of the presentation, and how were they handled?
  • How does this presentation align with your long-term goals or professional development?
  • How would you approach this presentation differently if you had to do it again?
  • How has this presentation affected your confidence or skills in public speaking or presenting?
  • What resources or support would have enhanced your preparation or performance?
  • How will you apply what you’ve learned from this presentation to future projects or presentations?
  • How did your understanding of the topic change or deepen through the process of preparing and presenting?
  • What steps will you take to continue improving or building on the skills demonstrated in this presentation?

Cultural sensitivity and awareness of the specific setting are crucial. Remember to:

  • Understand Cultural Norms: familiarize yourself with what’s considered polite or appropriate.
  • Respect Hierarchies: in some cultures, questioning authority might be discouraged.
  • Follow Established Protocols: adhere to the particular rules or customs of the venue or forum.

If you find the response lacking, you may:

  • Ask a Follow-Up: politely request more detail or clarification.
  • Discuss Privately: if it’s complex, consider discussing one-on-one after the session.
  • Respect Differences: recognize that you may have different opinions or interpretations.

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Bea Mariel Saulo

Bea is an editor and writer with a passion for literature and self-improvement. Her ability to combine these two interests enables her to write informative and thought-provoking articles that positively impact society. She enjoys reading stories and listening to music in her spare time.

90 Questions to Ask After a Presentation

Have you ever found yourself mulling over a presentation, wishing you had a treasure trove of questions to uncover the speaker’s insights and wisdom fully?

The right question isn’t just a follow-up; it’s a key that unlocks a deeper connection with the topic. This guide is designed to arm you with a curated collection of inquiries that will enhance your understanding, invite valuable discourse, and help you to apply what you’ve learned.

Let’s dive into the art of the post-presentation conversation and transform every ending slide into an opportunity for continued learning and engagement.

Table of Contents

Clarifying Understanding

  • Could you elaborate on the main thesis of your presentation?
  • What inspired the topic of your presentation?
  • Can you summarize the key points you’d like us to take away?
  • Is there an aspect of your presentation you think deserves deeper understanding?
  • How does your presentation relate to current trends or issues in the field?
  • Were there any counterarguments or challenges to your points that you didn’t mention?
  • In what way does your presentation build on or differ from existing research?
  • Could you clarify the methodology behind your study or findings?
  • How would you explain the significance of your findings to a layman?
  • Is there a particular slide or section you can revisit for further clarification?
  • Could you give an example that illustrates your point about [specific detail]?
  • What were the assumptions underlying your analysis or argument?
  • How do definitions used in your presentation compare to industry-standard ones?
  • Can you clarify the statistical significance of your data?
  • Where might we find more information on this topic if we wish to understand it better?

Digging Deeper into Content

  • Can you expand on how your findings compare to similar studies?
  • How might emerging technologies impact the relevance of your findings in the future?
  • Are there ethical considerations linked to your presentation topic?
  • What are the limitations of your research, and how can they be addressed in the future?
  • How can your research be applied in other fields or industries?
  • In what ways do your findings challenge conventional wisdom?
  • Could you walk us through the process of how you collected your data?
  • How would different theoretical frameworks affect the interpretation of your results?
  • What unanswered questions remain after your presentation?
  • How do you expect the discussion on this topic to evolve in the next five years?
  • What are the implications of your findings for policy or practice?
  • How does cultural context play into the outcomes of your research?
  • Can you discuss any relevant case studies that connect to your presentation?
  • What follow-up research would you recommend based on your work?
  • In your research, what was the most surprising discovery you made?

Gathering Practical Applications

  • How can we apply your research findings in our everyday work?
  • What steps can organizations take to implement your recommendations?
  • Can you suggest tools or resources for applying the insights from your presentation?
  • How might your research influence day-to-day decision-making?
  • Could you provide a real-world example where your findings have been put into practice?
  • What are the short-term and long-term benefits of applying your findings?
  • Who stands to benefit most from the practical applications of your research?
  • Are there certain industries or sectors where your findings are particularly relevant?
  • How will applying your findings change existing systems or processes?
  • What are some common obstacles to implementing your research, and how can they be overcome?
  • How do you recommend staying up-to-date on applications in your research area?
  • Can you suggest partner organizations or groups that are working on applying these concepts?
  • What measures can be put in place to evaluate the efficacy of applying your research?
  • How do you foresee your findings impacting future innovations?
  • What action can individuals take to support the practical application of your research?

Providing Constructive Feedback

  • I found [specific point] very compelling; have you considered expanding on this?
  • Your presentation makes a strong case for [topic]; how could it be enhanced with additional data?
  • I noticed [aspect] during your presentation; could this be a point for further refinement?
  • The visual aids were helpful; have you thought about using more interactive elements?
  • The section on [specific area] was very informative; how can it be made more accessible for beginners in the field?
  • In terms of delivery, would you be open to exploring other formats for your presentation?
  • Your research draws important conclusions; how else might you support them?
  • The pacing of your presentation was effective; could you use a similar approach to emphasize other key points?
  • Given the complexity of your topic, have you considered a follow-up session or workshop?
  • What additional resources or readings would you recommend to enhance our understanding of your topic?
  • Your narrative was engaging; might there be a way to incorporate more storytelling?
  • How might audience participation be facilitated in future presentations to enhance understanding?
  • Were there alternative viewpoints you debated including in your presentation?
  • How did you decide on the structure of your presentation, and what could be changed to improve it?
  • Is there a component of your research that you feel requires more visibility or discussion?

Fostering Engagement and Discussion

  • What questions do you have for the audience that might help further the discussion?
  • How can the audience keep the conversation going outside of this presentation?
  • Are there forums or networks where this topic is actively discussed?
  • Could you propose a thought experiment or hypothetical scenario for us to consider?
  • How can we encourage more interdisciplinary dialogue on this subject?
  • What common misconceptions should we address to clear up understanding?
  • In your opinion, what are the most controversial aspects of your topic?
  • How can we contribute to the body of research or thought around this subject?
  • What role can non-experts play in the discussion of these findings?
  • Can you suggest a way to create a community or collective around this area of research?
  • How would you like to see this information shared or disseminated?
  • What would be an ideal outcome of the discussions that stem from this presentation?
  • Are there collaborative projects or initiatives we could start as a result of your findings?
  • Would you be interested in hosting a series of discussions to delve deeper into certain aspects?
  • How do you suggest we handle differing opinions or debates that arise from your topic?

Exploring Next Steps and Actions

  • Based on your research, what should be our immediate action?
  • What are the first steps to be taken for those who want to delve deeper into this topic?
  • Who should be contacted or involved in further development of this topic?
  • Are there upcoming events or conferences where this topic will be featured?
  • What can we do as individuals to further the research or findings you presented?
  • How can we best track the progress and development in this area?
  • What practical steps would you recommend for a follow-up study or project?
  • Could you outline potential obstacles we might face in advancing this topic and how to overcome them?
  • Are there policy changes or advocacy needed to move this conversation forward?
  • How can the general public be engaged in the action steps related to your findings?
  • What are the most critical areas for immediate exploration or action?
  • Is there a need for collaboration with other disciplines to advance this topic?
  • How can educators integrate your findings into their curriculum or teaching?
  • What funding opportunities should be looked into to support further research?
  • How can we measure the impact of the actions taken as a result of your presentation?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can i provide feedback on the presentation style as well as the content.

Yes, but always aim to be constructive and polite. Feedback on presentation style can be as valuable as feedback on content.

What should I do if my question isn’t answered during the Q&A session?

If time runs out, try approaching the presenter afterward or sending a follow-up email with your question.

How can I encourage a discussion rather than just a Q&A session?

Ask open-ended questions that invite the presenter or audience members to share thoughts and perspectives, thus fostering a more interactive dialogue.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it—a comprehensive guide to quenching your intellectual curiosity and contributing valuable insights after a presentation. From uncovering the nuances of presented content to setting the stage for future collaboration, asking these questions ensures that no stone is left unturned.

Remember, the journey of understanding and exploration doesn’t end with the closing slide; it’s merely the beginning. Now, go forth and turn those questions into conversations that matter!

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Don’t Dread the Q&A After Your Presentation

You can manage a fear of public speaking by thoroughly rehearsing your presentation. But what about the part of the talk that is less in your control: the question-and-answer period? Don’t worry, there are several things you can do to prepare. First, change your mindset, and develop an appreciation for the conversation. Follow-up questions mean […]

You can manage a fear of public speaking by thoroughly rehearsing your presentation. But what about the part of the talk that is less in your control: the question-and-answer period? Don’t worry, there are several things you can do to prepare. First, change your mindset, and develop an appreciation for the conversation. Follow-up questions mean that people want to engage with what you have to say. Think about the types of things that audience members might ask. Put yourself in their shoes: How will your message impact their job? Practice responding with appreciation, such as “Thank you for raising that.” If you’re asked a contentious question, start your answer by focusing on where you and the audience member agree. This makes the person feel seen and connected to you. If you’re asked a question out of left field, respond with curiosity. Ask follow-up questions that help you understand what they’re getting at and where they’re coming from. If you’re still scratching your head, you can go back to expressing appreciation. A response like “I’m not sure about that, but thank you. I’ll look into it and get back to you,” will always work.

Source: This tip is adapted from “How to Nail the Q&A After Your Presentation,” by Caroline Webb

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Tress Academic

Conference speaker answering questions from audience.

#30: Questions from the audience you should be prepared to answer

November 5, 2019 by Tress Academic

You can never know the exact questions that the audience will ask after you have finished a conference presentation. This uncertainty can cause additional stress for you, and put you on edge during your presentation. There are, however, a few questions you can assume that someone from your audience might ask. So why not prepare yourself for these questions just in case? We’ll tell you which type of questions these are, and how you can easily prepare yourself for them. Having answers ready for these standard questions will make the Q&A part so much easier for you and alleviate unnecessary stress on the big day.

When we recently held our course “How to present at international scientific conferences” at a Swiss university, we discussed the Q&A part that comes right after a conference presentation with the participants. They spoke about their experiences at conferences where they presented their research, and everything that made it especially difficult for them. The presentations were always a big cause of stress and anxiety for them – is it for you as well? If so, we have another post from the Smart Academics Blog that will help you to deal with being nervous, see #3: “How to cope with stage fright?” .

If you are not an experienced presenter, it is a pretty big thing to go out and stand in front of a large crowd of colleagues from your field and tell them about your work. What our course participants were most scared of – even more than giving the talk – was the moment after they had delivered their presentation and the session chair opened the floor for questions. This was the moment where the unexpected could happen because they didn’t know what the questions would be. The biggest fear in the moment was to receive questions that they cannot answer or that make them look inexperienced, ignorant or worse! 

We totally understand this fear. Imagine you were well-prepared for a talk and had a good feeling throughout the presentation,  but the questions from the audience could spoil the good impression. Just imagine if you would have no idea how to answer relatively simple questions – this would be a waste of!

Do you have the same fears? We’d love to help you overcome them! There are actually a handful of questions that are very likely to be asked. These are the type of questions that so often come up at conferences, especially when early-career researchers are presenting. You should be prepared for these questions, with an answer in hand, which is not difficult to do! It should be a part of your preparation for the conference talk to think about these questions. You will see, it takes a lot of stress off your shoulders! 

Let us tell you about the most common audience questions at conferences below. If you want to prepare yourself for the next talk, download our free worksheet “Questions I should be ready to answer” . 

Typical audience questions you should have an answer for

1. what’s next … .

Of all the questions that people from the audience could ask you, this is for sure one of the most friendly and helpful ones. This question offers no critique of your work, and it does not ask for clarification of anything you said in your talk. The questioner simply wants to know what your next research steps are. They are interested in your research and express curiosity of how it might go on. 

So, make sure you have an idea about which follow-up steps you want to take with your research. Be prepared to tell the audience a little bit about how you might progress. Think about what you want to say before the question is asked and make a structure of the points you want to say, so you don’t leave out anything important. Use our free worksheet “Questions I should be ready to answer” to help you. 

2. Why should we know more about this?  

If you hear this question right after finishing your talk, you might feel a bit frustrated, or even threatened. Why is the audience asking this at the end? Wasn’t your talk clear enough? Have they not listened to you? It can sound as if the questioner doubts the value or necessity of your work. Or it could feel as if you were not clear enough when describing why you research what you do. 

In fact, this is again a very friendly and helpful question. It has no negative connotation and the questioner has no intention of criticising you or your work. He or she may just want to know more explicitly from you why you did this research and why it is worth doing in such detail. It is a question about the relevance of your work. 

So, what do you do? Tell the audience why you did your research, what you expect as its outcome and give some examples or applications to help them better understand why your work is needed. Use our free worksheet “Questions I should be ready to answer” .  

3. How have you done this …? 

This is a question about your methods or the overall approach you’ve applied. You will probably be surprised to get this question because you’ll think you had explained everything very clearly in your talk. Obviously, this was not the case for the person asking. 

Don’t be scared! You have most likely not failed to talk about your methods, but in presentations, the reporting on the scientific methods that were applied to address a certain question is often the most difficult part for the audience to comprehend. Thus, it is not surprising that questions arise on the matter. 

Properly describing the methods you applied in your research in a conference presentation is challenging. You hardly have the time to go into such detail in order to make the audience fully understand it. In a typical 15-minute presentation slot, which requires time for questions and discussion, so it is really more like a  10-12 minute talk, you have only a few minutes available to explain your approach. 

For this reason, we advise participants in our courses to always keep the methods part of your presentation short, by reducing it to the main steps and avoiding too much detail. You should give only a rough outline of the steps because it is difficult, tiring, and sometimes also a bit boring for the audience to listen to a specific set-up of a workflow or a project when you have not been part of the project.

Instead, spend time in your talk presenting your problem, your findings, your examples, and your take-home message. This is what the audience needs to understand! But of course, it might then trigger a question about HOW have you done it, which again, you can prepare yourself for. It is really a friendly and helpful question from an interested person. The audience shows that they want to better understand how your work was done. 

In your preparation phase, determine which methods or method steps could be unclear to your audience and what kind of information they would need to have for a quick understanding of a complex issue. Use our f ree worksheet “Questions I should be ready to answer” to help you prepare for this step.  

4. What do you mean by …? 

The fourth most common question that you can expect to receive is probably the easiest one to answer. It is a clarifying question where the questioner has not understood a specific term, a process, or an aspect of your presentation that you referred to. 

Questions like this pose no threat but are necessary for your audience to fully get your talk. Don’t forget, you will also have some listeners in your audience that come from other fields and they might not be familiar with your specialist terminology. We can never know what the exact level of knowledge of our audience is, therefore, you will sometimes be surprised to get questions about aspects you think are common knowledge – they probably are not. 

If you follow our rule to only include what you can explain yourself in your presentation, you will never have a problem with this question. If you fully comprehend what you talk about, you will always be able to address this question professionally. If you try to illustrate your vast knowledge by alluding to processes that you do not fully comprehend, you run the risk of not being able to further explain to them when asked by the audience. Keep your presentation air-tight to what you know you know!

You can prepare yourself with an overview of topics and aspects that probably somebody in the audience who isn’t from your field wouldn’t know and potentially need a clear explanation. Our free worksheet “Questions I should be ready to answer” will help you to prepare for this. 

hard questions to ask after a presentation

Naturally, the Q&A part of a conference presentation is the part that you can’t prepare for as precisely as the actual delivery of your presentation. There will always be an element of surprise for you and this is of course also the purpose of this interaction with the audience. They want to experience you off the cuff, where you have to show a bit of spontaneity. They are not coming to see a well-rehearsed play, but a glimpse of the scientists who are conducting this cutting edge work. 

That does not mean everything taking place during the Q&A is random and you have to give yourself over to fate. An audience can feel when you are nervous and they feel for you when you are a less-experienced presenter. Therefore, they sometimes deliberately ask some of the questions above, because they know these are ‘soft-ball’ questions that you can answer. So, make sure you are prepared for them and show your audience that you have done the work and deserve their attention. We wish you best of luck with your next Q&A session! 

Relevant resources:  

  • Worksheet “Questions, I should be ready to answer”  
  • Presentations course “How to present at international scientific conferences”  
  • Smart Academics Blog #03: How to cope with stage fright?  
  • Smart Academics Blog #24: New to the PhD? – 5 tips for a great start! 
  • Smart Academics Blog #26: First conference presentation? 17 life-saving tips
  • Smart Academics Blog #95: Apply these 5 tips to improve any presentation

Relevant courses and services:

  • 1-day course: Presenting successfully at virtual conferences
  • 3-day course: How to present at international conferences
  • 1-to-1 advice: Presentation Check

More information:  

Do you want to present successfully at conferences? If so, please sign up to receive our free guides.  

© 2019 Tress Academic

#ConferencePresentations #ConferenceTalk #QA #QuestionsAndAnswers, #AudienceQuestions


10 Tips for Handling Questions after a Presentation

hard questions to ask after a presentation

In this article, we’ll provide 10 tips for handling questions effectively, from being prepared to staying calm and concise. By following these tips, you can feel confident and prepared to handle any questions that come your way.

As a presenter, handling questions after a presentation can be nerve-wracking. However, it’s an essential part of engaging with your audience and demonstrating your expertise. 

1. Listen Carefully

2. repeat the question, 3. don’t interrupt, 4. encourage dialogue, 5. be respectful, 6. be honest, 7. keep it brief, 8. repeat key points, 9. don’t overpromise, 10. be prepared, final thoughts.

When someone asks you a question, take a moment to listen carefully to what they are saying. This will not only help you understand the question better but will also give you time to collect your thoughts and formulate an appropriate response.

To ensure that you have understood the question correctly and to give the audience a chance to hear it, repeat the question aloud before answering. This also helps to clarify any ambiguity in the question and ensures that you are answering the right question.

Allow the person asking the question to finish speaking before responding. Interrupting can come across as rude and may make the audience feel uncomfortable. Wait until they have finished speaking before responding.

Encourage dialogue by asking follow-up questions or inviting others in the audience to share their thoughts or opinions. This can create a more engaging and interactive experience for everyone involved.

It’s important to be respectful and professional when answering questions, even if the person asking the question is being difficult or confrontational. Respond in a calm and collected manner and avoid getting defensive or argumentative.

If you do not know the answer to a question, do not try to bluff your way through it. Instead, be honest and admit that you do not have the information at hand. You can offer to follow up with the person after the presentation or direct them to someone who may be able to provide a more suitable answer.

When answering questions, be concise and to the point. Avoid rambling or going off-topic, as this can lead to confusion or boredom for the audience. Stick to the main point of the question and provide a clear and concise response.

When answering questions, repeat key points from your presentation to reinforce the information and help the audience understand it better. This can also help to contextualize the answer within the larger framework of your presentation.

Be honest and realistic when answering questions. Don’t over promise or make claims that you can’t back up. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it and offer to follow up with the person later.

Before giving a presentation, it is essential to anticipate the types of questions that your audience may have. This will help you prepare appropriate responses and feel more confident when the time comes to answer them. Take the time to research your topic thoroughly and consider any potential areas of confusion or points of interest that may spark questions.

In conclusion, handling questions after a presentation can be challenging, but with the right preparation and approach, it can also be an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and engage with your audience. By following these tips, you can feel confident and prepared to handle any questions that come your way.

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Presentation Skills: How to answer those killer questions

Feb 19, 2017 by maurice decastro in communication skills , presentation skills , presentation tips.

woman presenter answering questions

Questions can be a major source of anxiety for many presenters.

In our presentation skills courses we are often asked to help people to answer questions more professionally.

It’s a much bigger issue than many people think.

When we probe a little deeper to understand the issue, our delegates often ask 3 questions:

         1. ‘How do I respond confidently to a question I simply don’t know the answer to?’

         2. ‘What if I don’t understand the question?

         3. ‘How do I deal with hostile questions?’

Our first task is to re-frame the way we think about being asked questions. For many people that presents a significant challenge.

It is often perceived as the moment of truth

We’ve spent hours crafting our presentation to ensure its content rich and helpful. We know our content well and have practiced exhaustively.

We’ve left nothing to chance; so what’s the problem?

It’s as simple as it is frightening. We convince ourselves that our entire reputation depends on how we answer questions.

Unfortunately, there can be a touch of truth behind that limiting belief. That’s why it’s the cause of so much anxiety amongst presenters. 

There’s plenty you can do to answer those challenging questions with confidence and credibility. Before we explore them, try to avoid this mistake.

Don’t answer a question saying:

“That is a really good question and I am glad you asked it.”

Quite often, it’s not a good question? If it’s not a good question the response sounds glib. If it is a good question, does that mean the others aren’t?

How you would feel if you asked the next question and the presenter didn’t acknowledge it as a ‘really good question’.

Just answer the question.

The scary six

Our job as presenters extends beyond crafting a content rich, compelling, presentation. We also have to deliver  it in a way that is congruent with our message. We have to anticipate difficult questions too.

Surround yourself with a small group of people you trust and respect. Share your presentation with them giving each person a specific role. 

Devil’s advocate 

Ask them to be contentious, oppose your view and challenge the strength of your presentation.

 Their role is to criticise you and to create an atmosphere of hostility and distrust.

The energy thief

 Get them to look for a negative aspect of everything you say.

The know all 

Encourage them to actively demonstrate that they know more than you on the topic.

Let them tell you in the most respectful way that they don’t agree with you.

The wanderer  

They demonstrate that they haven’t listened to a word you said.

It’s not an excercise for the faint hearted because it takes courage.

It is, however an investment worth making.

Once the scary six have taken you and your presentation apart, take another look at your presentation.

As painful and as strange as it may sound, remember it’s not real and it won’t happen. You, however, will be prepared for anything.

What exactly should you do with those awkward questions?

Killer question 1  – You don’t know the answer

The old saying ‘honesty is the best policy’, has stood the test of time because it’s true. The moment you try to bluff your way through a question you don’t know the answer to, you lose your credibility.

Try this instead.

Step into the question. In other words, take a step forward towards your audience. If you are seated then lean forward into the table or desk.

Have you noticed how common it is for people to be on the ‘back foot’ when they don’t know the answer to a question?

Your challenge is to be on the front foot and to step into or lean into the question.

Acknowledge the person who asked the question with eye contact. After that, bring the rest of the room into your response with eye contact too.  Once you’ve  moved forward and made eye contact, confidently say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out and let you know’.

You have a few choices at this point. You can:

Ask the audience

“I don’t know the answer to that but I wonder whether anyone else in the audience does.”

“Can anyone help answer that question?”

Share a thought

You may not have the answer but you may have a view. Share a thought or perspective on the question if you have one. 

‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out and let you know. In the meantime I have a thought on the issue. Please keep in mind that it’s not the answer to your question as I’ve already stated I don’t know the answer but here is a thought…

What’s your view on that?’

Ask for a moment

If you need a little time to think about the question, ask for it.

‘I need a few moments to think about that.’

This also take a little courage but remember, you don’t need to rush in to giving an answer.

Give yourself a little time to think. Your audience will respect you for it.

Postpone the answer

It may well be that you know the answer but under pressure the answer has slipped your mind. This is another opportunity to be honest.

‘ Given the importance of the question, I’d like to give you the most complete answer I can. I will need to get back to you in…’

Killer question 2 – You don’t understand the question

I’ve long held the view that most people don’t really listen. I believe that many do something else – they wait to speak.

“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

That is often the reason why we don’t understand the question. The solution is relatively simple; we need to really listen. That means:

– Listen – to the entire question

– Breathe – don’t leap straight into a response

– Check – ‘Let me just check that I understand you correctly, you are asking me if…’

‘To make sure that I’ve understood you correctly are you asking…’

If you still don’t understand the question, don’t panic.  Take a deep breath and ask them to clarify what they mean. Explain politely that you are still not clear you understand the question.

Killer question 3 – It’s a hostile question

Most audiences are on your side. They are friendly, open and are keen to learn from you. That said, every now and then you may get what we call hostile questions.

They feel hostile because of the emotional charge. The questioner may wave their pen at you challenging or criticizing your perspective.

If this happens, your  job is to remain calm. Depersonalize the attack and avoid being over defensive; easier said than done I know.

Your first priority is to diffuse the emotional charge and to take care of the rest of the audience whilst respecting the questioner.

Treat them the same as any other member of the audience.  Answer their question as honestly and as professionally as you can.

Avoid matching your tone of voice to theirs. Stay calm, professional and polite. Remember that your audience will align with whoever is more courteous and respectful.

Very occasionaly it appears as though the questioner is looking for more of an argument rather than an answer. This is rare but if it happens, you owe it to the rest of your audience to close it down.

You do have some options:

– You can acknowledge their concern and suggest that the two of you meet separately after the presentation to discuss the matter in greater detail.

– If the questioner persists you can calmly assert:

‘I’m afraid I need to move on now.’

It’s possible that you may need to repeat this two or three times.

– A  simple but powerful technique you can use to respectfully regain control of your presentation is to:

That means listening very closely and carefully to the perspective of the questioner.

You have listened closely enough to find something you can sincerely agree with. That does not mean you agree with a point they make even if you don’t. It means you listen intently for something that does make sense to you that you can agree with. When there is such a high emotional charge in a question it’s often fueled by passion and a need to be heard.

The questioner isn’t a bad person. They are simply someone who feels very strongly about what you are saying and may not share your perspective. Once you have listened closely enough to find something you can genuinely agree with, no matter how small, there is only one thing left to do.

You acknowledge that you agree with that element of their argument. Tell them that you understand their perspective or that the specific point they just made makes sense to you. Then you pause and you stay silent.

It’s more than a pause of course, as you are signalling to the questioner that you have nothing else to say on the matter.

You don’t say a word and watch what happens next.

Try to understand the motivation behind the question and tone. Share what you are picking up from them: “It sounds like your main concern is with the process. Is that correct?” This will encourage them to focus on the point they are trying to make. It will  also give you a little  time to consider a response.

One of the many key distinctions between a Mindful Presenter and a mediocre presenter is the ability to handle challenging questions professionally and effectively.

That distinction is achieved through the conscious focus and effort to:

– See questions as an opportunity to learn and engage, rather than be judged

– Listen very carefully to the question

– Lose the ‘headstuff’; in other words not making it all about you

– Pause and breathe

– Repeat the question if necessary and appropriate

– Understand the motivation behind the question

– Respect the questioner and the audience

– Anticipate difficult questions whilst crafting the presentation

– Stay calm, focused and on message

– Close the questions down politely and move on

If you need help answering those killer questions:

– Book yourself onto a powerful  public speaking course .

– Invest in some really good one to one  public speaking coaching .

– Get yourself some excellent  presentation training

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Guide for Handling Questions after a Presentation

October 19, 2017 - Dom Barnard

The questions at the end of a presentation can be terrifying for many speakers as they can’t be controlled and are hard to prepare for. However, questions form an important part of the presentation for the whole audience as they allow for clarification and consolidation of learning.

The presenter can enhance the usefulness of the question and answer session by treating it as a formal part of the presentation that requires as much careful planning and control as the delivery of the core material.

Identify possible questions and scope in your preparation

The background work that you undertook whilst planning your presentation is the key to handling questions effectively and understanding what  type of audience  you’ll be faced with. If you have defined a focus for your presentation and have explored this thoroughly in your research and planning, you are more likely to be able to confidently respond to questions.

When planning your presentation, you will need to prepare prompts for questions that are open and straightforward, for example saying “That’s the end of my presentation. I’ll be taking questions for the next 10 minutes”.

You might also want to define topics for discussion before taking questions, by stating the areas you’re willing to field questions in. Your preparation will help you identify topics you are not confident with and want to avoid in the questioning.

Prepare for questions after the presentation

Set some rules for asking questions

At the start of your presentation, make it clear when you would prefer to deal with questions – as you go along or at the end of the presentation.

Some speakers prefer questions to be raised as they arise during the presentation. The advantage of this approach is that any misunderstandings can be dealt with immediately. However, there is also a danger that the question will disrupt or distract the speaker, or that questions are raised that would have been covered later in the presentation.

If you leave questions until the end, plan to leave plenty of time for questions so that the audience doesn’t feel rushed.

Framework for responding to questions

Answering questions under pressure can make you say things you shouldn’t have – the nerves can force you to give an inappropriate response. In your panic you might have misinterpreted the question or given away company information that was sensitive. Use the following framework to help you respond effectively to your audience.

Practice answering AI-generated questions on your speech or presentation with  VirtualSpeech .

1. Listen to the whole question

You don’t have to answer a question immediately. Pause for a few seconds,  actively listen  to all parts of the question and think about the best way to answer.

Frequently questions can change direction at the last moment, particularly if the questioner is thinking on their feet. This can throw you if you have already started to prepare an answer. Remember that questioners will frequently try to make a point whilst asking their question – it’s therefore important to both hear the content of the question and try to decipher the questioner’s intention.

2. Understand the context

If you are worried that you haven’t understood a question, ask them to clarify what they mean. Check for confirmation by paraphrasing the question back to the questioner – “You want me to list the improvements of X?”.

3. Involve the whole audience

It is important to remember that even though you are taking a question from one member of the audience, you are still responsible for the interest of the other audience members. This is particularly important in large groups as the audience will become bored if the presentation descends into a series of one-to-one discussions.

To involve the rest of the audience, make sure the whole audience has heard and understood the question by repeating it or paraphrasing it to the audience.

4. Respond concisely

When you reply to a question, direct your answer to both the questioner and other members of the audience. Try to keep your responses as focused as possible, leaving space for other questions. To avoid going into too much detail, check back with the questioner to see if you have answered their query – “Does that answer your question in enough detail?”.

We’ll cover different ways to respond in a later section.

5. Allow follow-up questions via email

You can also encourage your audience to ask questions after the event has finished by providing your email address. This shows a high level of respect for your audience and implies that the topic still has much further scope for enquiry.

Two good resources for handling questions

  • What’s the art of answering a tricky question?
  • Dodging the Question

Practice Answering Questions

Practice answering questions after your presentation using a 4 step process. Learn More

Options for answering the question

There are five possible choices depending on how well you understand and can answer the question. It’s okay to say that you don’t know the answer to something. This can add to your credibility instead of trying to waffle through an answer you don’t really know.

If you have a good answer for the question from the audience, go ahead and answer it in a short and clear message.

Ask a question back the audience member, such as “Can you clarify what you mean by that”. You can also attack the question if it is not related to the issue, factually inaccurate, personal or based on false assumptions. Be careful with this method.

Ask the question back to the audience or pass it to another panel member if possible. If suitable, another technique is to imply the question has been asked already, with you stating you don’t want to cover old ground.

Tell the audience member you will talk to them after the event. This gives you more time to think of a good answer and there is less pressure to give a perfect answer.

Or mention that that point is coming up in a slide.

This involves answering the question but changing the subject. You can also give a partial answer or give a negative answer, saying that something else will happen instead.

Avoid answering questions that fall outside of the remit of your talk: “I’m afraid that really falls outside of my objectives for today’s presentation. Perhaps we can resume discussion of that particular point later?”

Framework for handling questions after a presentation

Diagram Explained : Once you receive a question, you’ll have a few moments to think about it and reframe it in a way that makes sense to you. This will give you five choices on how to react – you can answer, reflect, deflect, defer or change the scope of the question. Once you’ve answered concisely, you can then follow up to check if the person asking the question is satisfied and then continue with the presentation.

Strategies to use when struggling to answer

Here are some strategies to use when you are struggling to answer the question posed to you. For more information, read this article on  Dodging the Question .

  • Acknowledge the question without answering it – “That’s a good question, let’s consider the impact by looking at…”
  • The question fails to tackle the important issue.
  • The question is based on a false assumption.
  • The question is factually inaccurate.
  • The question is too personal or objectionable.
  • Decline to answer. Refuse to answer on the basis that it is not your area of responsibility or it is sensitive company information – “You will have to ask [name] because I wasn’t involved in that particular project.”
  • Partial answer
  • Start to answer but change the subject
  • Negative answer. You state what won’t happen instead of what will happen
  • Answer a similar question
  • State or imply the question has already been answered – “We’ve already covered that topic”

Things to avoid

When handling questions and answers, you will still need to be as professional as you have been for the main delivery of your presentation. There are some common dangers to avoid.

Answering the question you wished you’d been asked

A common trick played by politicians, this strategy ignores the precise nature of the question and uses a predetermined answer to the broad topic area. If handled poorly, this technique is very obvious to the audience and frustrating to the questioner.

Giving a lengthy response

This is the process whereby you make a lengthy response, including all the information you’d left out in planning the main presentation. Your unplanned response will be unstructured and rambling, so keep things focused and brief. If you find yourself rambling, ask them to talk to you after.

Avoid giving a lengthy response to questions after your speech

Passing the blame

Passing the blame to others comes across as weak and evasive. If an idea from the audience is a good one, acknowledge its value. If it isn’t, make a polite rebuttal and move on.

Defensive answers

Occasionally, questions can really put you on the spot, but it is important to remain calm and in control. An aggressive or defensive reply will be seen as weakness on your part and will spoil the effect of an otherwise successful presentation.

Handling difficult questions

It is important not to start responding to a difficult question before you have thought about the answer. Repeating the question and asking for clarification will help create some space for your thoughts.

Sometimes you will need to think about a question for a moment before responding. You may be able to buy a little bit of thinking time to help focus your response. Useful strategies include searching for an appropriate visual aid to help focus your response or simply pausing for a moment or two to think. For even more time, suggest that you’ll come back to the topic later (but don’t forget to do this).

7 myths when answering tough questions during presentations

Sometimes questions are too difficult to answer. Don’t worry about admitting that you don’t know something or haven’t considered an alternative approach. An enthusiastic “That’s an interesting idea, I’d not thought of that” is much more positive than a mumbled “I don’t know ”. Remember that a presentation is a two-way process and it is important to show that you are learning from your audience as well.

Finally, you can come across a questioner who disagrees strongly with your argument. Although this can feel very awkward, remember that you are still responsible for the whole audience and that you cannot allocate all of your question time to one individual.

If you feel that you have answered the initial question, announce that you will move on and suggest that you might continue discussion after the presentation. If the questioner persists, assert your position calmly by saying “I’m afraid I need to move on”.

You can read more on this topic here:  Responding to questions effectively (PDF)


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How to Guides • 2 min read

Taking Questions After a Presentation

A process for answering the audience.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

Once a speaker has delivered a speech or presentation, the next step is to field questions from the audience. This article outlines a process for dealing effectively with questions after a presentation.

hard questions to ask after a presentation

Listen carefully to the question being asked. For many people, the temptation is to start answering the question in their head before the questioner has actually finished. This means that the latter part of the question is sometimes lost and the question is not answered completely.

2. Rephrase and Repeat

Once the question has been heard in its entirety, rephrase and repeat the question out loud. This serves several purposes: First, the person being questioned can check with the questioner that they have fully understood what is being asked. Second, rephrasing the question affords time to think and helps the presenter to develop an answer, and third, repeating the question aloud will ensure everyone in the audience has heard the question.

Now that the question has been fully understood, answer the question clearly and concisely. It is better to answer concisely and be asked to expand on the answer than to go into too much depth and go on too long. If someone in the audience asks for further explanation, it may be best to inform them that this can be discussed in greater depth after the question and answer session. This will ensure that a reasonable variety of questions are asked and answered within the allotted time.

4. Be Honest

If there is any doubt over the answer to a question, it is best to be honest about this. It is quite acceptable to say 'I don't know, but I'll find out and come back to you. Just make sure you keep your promise e.g. by directing people to your blog or website, where they will find the answers online. Or you could meet with the questioner after the session to exchange email addresses or phone numbers.

5. Don’t Let Yourself Be Railroaded

Try to avoid multiple questions from one or two people or multiple questions on one particular aspect. Avoiding this will allow other people to ask their questions and ensure a variety of topics are discussed.

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The Right Way to Handle Tough Questions During Presentations [SlideShare]

Carly Williams

Updated: July 28, 2017

Published: January 21, 2016

If you've ever spoken in front of an audience -- big or small -- it's likely that you're familiar with "Q&A paranoia."

hard questions to ask after a presentation

It's not that you don't want to answer people's questions -- heck, you're the expert -- but not knowing what to expect can be a little stressful. 

Click here for our free guide to improving your presentation skills.

What if they challenge your stance? Try to discredit you? Or ask you something you haven't the slightest clue about?

While it's smart to anticipate certain objections, others may arise that you simply can't plan for. For tough times like those, check out the helpful tips in the SlideShare from 24Slides below.

How to you handle tough presentation questions? Share you tips in the comments section below.

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Dealing With Presentation Questions

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Many otherwise extremely competent and confident presenters will tell you that they really dread the question and answer session of a presentation.

They seek ways to ‘avoid’ difficult questions. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Dealing with questions in a presentation is a skill which anyone can master.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that, as a general rule, if people ask you questions, even hostile ones, it’s not to trip you up but because they genuinely want the answer.

Staying in Control of the Questions

Most people dread the question session because they fear losing control.

A little thought and some early planning can avoid this risk. But you can also avoid it by remembering that any presentation is an information exchange. It is as much for you to hear what people want to know as for them to hear from you.

However, if your presentation starts to get diverted by an interesting question, try saying something like:

“I think we’re getting a bit off topic here. Let’s put that to one side and you and I can chat about it later. Come and find me at the end and we’ll exchange contact details.”
“I’d really like to get on with the presentation, otherwise I may not have time to finish, but let’s talk about this later.”

Setting out some Ground Rules

At the start of your presentation, you should make it clear whether and when you would prefer to deal with questions - as you go along or at the end of the presentation.

Some speakers prefer questions to be raised as they arise during the presentation. The advantage of this approach is that any misunderstandings can be dealt with immediately. However, there is also a danger that the question will disrupt or distract the speaker, or that questions are raised that would have been covered later in the presentation.

Top tip! Categorising Questions

If you like to deal with questions as they arise, but you are concerned about the pitfalls, there is an easy way to handle this. In your introduction, explain that there are three types of questions:

  • The sort that seeks clarification of something that has just been said – you will answer those immediately;
  • The sort that asks a related question about something that you plan to cover later – you will answer those later in the presentation; and
  • The sort that is best dealt with offline because most of the audience probably won’t be interested, or it’s outside the topic of the presentation – you will make a note of the question and come back to the questioner afterwards.

When a Type 2 or 3 question is asked, you can then say something like:

“ That’s a Type 2 question, so I’ll park that for now, and cover it later. If you don’t think I’ve covered it by the end, remind me, and I’ll go over it.”

Other speakers prefer to deal with questions at the end of the presentation.

If you prefer this approach, ensure that you set aside sufficient time for questions but also limit the amount of time available. The amount of time will depend on the type of presentation you are giving but usually 10 minutes of question time should be sufficient.

The big advantage of this approach is that if you talk too quickly, you will simply have a longer question session: a big incentive to talk slowly and carefully, and make sure that your audience understands everything as you go.

You should not close the presentation with the question and answer session.

When you have finished answering questions, make sure that you have the last word with a strong assertion of your main message(s).

In other words, you can thank the audience for their questions and then summarise once again the main point or points that your presentation was designed to communicate.

An Introduction to Question Sessions

The main rule of question sessions is to treat your audience with the respect you would like to have shown to you, and answer their questions directly and honestly.

If they have asked a question, it is because they want to know the answer.

It is very unlikely that anyone will ask a question solely to trip you up, although this does happen.

If a question is provocative, answer it directly. Never be rude to the questioner or show you are upset. Do not compromise yourself but maintain your point of view and never lose your temper.

This tactic can be difficult to maintain but the key is being assertive.

Visit our section on assertiveness to learn some more tips, start with: Assertiveness - An Introduction .

Managing Questions

Listen carefully to the question and, if the audience is large, repeat it to ensure everyone in the audience has heard.

If you’re not sure you understood correctly, paraphrase it back to the questioner and check that you have it right. Answer briefly and to the point.

If you do not know the answer, then say so and offer to find out. Then ensure that you follow up . To be able to respond, you will need the questioner’s name and email address, so make sure that you speak to them before they or you leave.

“ I don’t know ” is a very acceptable answer to some difficult questions and it is much more acceptable than stumbling through an answer or making something up. “ I don’t know, but I’ll find out and let you know ” is even more acceptable.

Relax and do not feel as if you have to know everything. If you don’t know it is better to be honest than to try to pretend.

Trust takes a long time to build up, but it can be lost in moments, and audiences will almost always know when you are not being genuine.

An Alternative Tactic: Involving your Audience

If you are speaking to a well-informed audience, a professional group for example , and the question is a fairly general one to which you do not know the answer, consider asking the room if anyone else would like to respond. You may have the world expert on that subject sitting there who would be delighted to share their expertise with you all. If you have noticed someone in particular, you can even say:

“ I noticed that Professor X is in the room, so I wonder if he would like to comment on that to save me displaying my ignorance ”
“ My colleague over there is more familiar with that area than I am so, while I don’t want to put him on the spot, maybe he would be prepared to shed some light on this? ”

Most people will be fine with that approach, especially if they really do know more about it than you, and it will mean that the room gets a much better response. Yes, you’re the one standing at the front, but you don’t know everything.

You may also find our general pages on questioning useful see Questioning and Question Types .

Continue to: Coping with Presentation Nerves Managing the Presentation Event

See Also: Preparing for a Presentation | Organising the Material Deciding the Presentation Method Working with Visual Aids

ProEdge Skills, Inc.

Honesty is the only policy when presenting.  Blatantly admitting, “I don’t know”, in front of an audience can be a credibility disaster.  What to do?

No one can know the answer to every question.  It’s how the inevitable is handled that separates the amateurs from the Pros.

Use the following Seven Strategies to field even the toughest questions with tact and poise.

1. Reflection

Repeat the question and reflect it back to your audience, “Does anyone here have any experience with that?”

When you allow the audience to help you, they will save you without ever realizing it.  In fact, the audience will revere you because adults love to be involved and share their knowledge.  After you have fielded all contributions, summarize, and add your own ideas, if any have been sparked.

Summarizing at the end helps you to maintain control and authority.  Always repeat questions before answering for the same reason.

2. I’ll Get Back to You

This trusted standard works well if you do Three Things…

  •  Write the question down. Be conspicuous.  Make sure everyone knows you are writing the question down.  I go so far as telling the audience, “I am writing this question down.”
  • Tell the questioner exactly when you will get back to them. Be honest.  Then do it.  Can you get back to them by the end of the day?  If it is an allday program, can you get back to them after lunch?
  • Be sure to get the questioner’s contact information if you don’t have it.

These Three Things give this Strategy power.  This is not smoke and mirrors.  It is real-time Customer Service- go the extra mile, expand your knowledge, impress your audience.

3. Defer to the Expert

This is a more sophisticated version of the Reflection technique.

Sometimes a question is legitimately outside your area of expertise.  You may be a marketing expert, and someone asks a question about engineering.  The question requires an engineer.

If there is an engineer in the room you could say, “Sally, you’re an engineer.  Do you have any insights into that?”  If there are no engineers in the room, state that you will confer with an engineer and get back to them .

Notice I have just combined two techniques.

4. Compliment the Questioner

Two Things make this Strategy effective…

  • Rarity Some presenters respond to EVERY question with, “Great question.”  If you do this, break the habit immediately.  Otherwise, you will lose one of the most effective techniques in your toolbox when you don’t know the answer.

This Strategy works, when sincere, because audience’s love to be complimented.  They like to “stump” the teacher.  The audience becomes focused on how smart they are instead of judging the presenter.

You can also combine this technique with I’ll Get Back to You .

5. Answer a Question with a Question

Sometimes questions are too narrow or too general to answer.  Reserve the right, as the expert, to open a question up or close it down by asking a question in response.

Once upon a time I was a software trainer.  One day a woman asked me a very specific question, “What does that button do?”  I had no idea, but I didn’t confess, “I don’t know.”

Instead, I asked her a question, “What is your goal in pushing that button?”  She elaborated and explained what she wanted to accomplish.  I knew a way to help, and it didn’t involve pushing that button!

She was happy.  I was honest, credible, helpful, and very happy.

6. Parallel Answer

If you don’t know the bull’s eye answer to a question, offer what you do know quickly to demonstrate some credibility and then combine with a previous technique.

Many moons ago, when I was a software trainer, I used to be an expert in Lotus, a now extinct spreadsheet package.  As Microsoft Excel eclipsed Lotus, I had to learn Excel so I could teach it.  I was on a learning curve.  Sometimes I would be asked a question about Excel that I didn’t know the answer to, but I did know the answer in Lotus.

Quickly I would say, “I know that is possible in Lotus.  I can find out if that is possible in Excel.  I’m writing this question down.  I’ll research it at the break and get back to you .”  Refrain from droning on and on about your parallel knowledge.

Brevity is the key to this technique.  Be sure to combine with Reflection or I’ll Get Back to You to hit the bull’s eye answer for your audience.

7. Set Rules

Prevention is the best medicine.  You can avoid many Difficult Questions by Setting Rules in the beginning.  Whenever you present, you are the Leader.  So, take the Lead and Set Rules up front.

If you Set Rules and follow them, the audience respects you.  If you make rules up as you go, you lose credibility.  This has been my experience.

The number of Rules you set will vary depending on the topic and your audience.  When I taught Programming Languages and Software, I set lots of Rules because I knew the questions would be many and varied.

Example… I would start a Software Seminar by saying, “I welcome general questions at any time about anything on the Agenda.  If you have questions about a specific project or a subject outside the Agenda, please see me at a break for private consultation.  Because we have limited time, I may stop taking questions and comments sometimes to make certain we cover every Agenda topic today.”

Setting Rules is critical.  Lead and Set Rules conversationally at the beginning of your presentation to Prevent most Difficult Questions.

No one can know the answer to every question.  It is possible to handle the inevitable situation with honesty and credibility like a Pro.  Use these Seven Strategies to enjoy Difficult Questions, learn from them, and impress your audience.

About the Author

Mary Sandro helps professionals deliver brief, logically sound, emotionally engaging presentations that get an audience to take action.  Learn to excel at presenting and love the process in just 60 Minutes with the Get Them MarchingFramework.  Includes instant online access and optional live coaching.  Visit www.ProEdgeSkills.com or call 800-731-0601.

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About Mary Sandro

Mary Sandro helps organizations deliver exceptional customer service and standout presentations. In 1994 she founded ProEdge Skills, Inc. to deliver engaging training programs, videos, coaching, and train-the-trainer licenses that empower employees to achieve goals. Learn more at www.ProEdgeSkills.com or call 800-731-0601.

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The Question & Answer (or Q&A) session happens at the end of your presentation—audience members are free to ask you questions about your content and your ideas, and you have the chance to show how well you know your research.

But what happens if someone asks a tough question?

In this section, we'll look at how to handle audience questions so you can feel more in control of the situation.

Tips for Answering Questions in a Presentation

Make sure you understand the question and that you've heard everything the person wants to learn.

Re-state the question in your own words and have the person confirm that you've heard and understood their question. For example, you could say, "Are you asking…?" or "Did you mean…?" before rephrasing the person's question.

Be direct and honest. If you don't know the answer, that's okay too, but you should try your best to respond in a way that will satisfy the person who asked you the question.

Use a story that is relatable to the audience to build a better connection with your audience.

If someone asks you a difficult question, don't get rattled! Make sure you're polite, professional, and courteous. Be prepared for your presentation—think about what people might ask you during your presentation and either include the content in your session or leave it for the Q&A.

How to Handle Different Types of Questions

Handling questions from audience members can be one of the most difficult aspects of presenting your work. So, what kinds of questions might come up during your Q&A session?

Check the boxes below to learn more about a few different types of questions and how to handle them.

Direct Questions

Direct questions are the typical questions we use when we want information. Direct questions require direct answers. You want to be clear and concise with your response, and you'll likely only need one sentence to answer the question.

There are three types of direct questions:

  • True/False (Yes/No) : You either confirm or deny what the questioner has asked you.
  • Multiple Choice : You state which option is true based on two or more choices included in the question.
  • Fill in the Blank : Your answer will provide missing information for the questioner.

Hostile Questions

Hostile questions are often designed to challenge the narrative, structure, and conclusions of your presentation. These types of questions can range from annoying comments or rude interruptions to mild differences of opinion to highly charged challenges.

It's important to handle these kinds of disagreeable questions without getting hostile back. Remember: You have the power to control and optimize these difficult situations.

Types of Hostile Questions

Four common types of hostile questions include:

Example: "Your conclusion here is unrealistic, don't you think so?"

With these types of questions, you can respond with a simple “No,” immediately followed by a recap of the issue under consideration.

For example: "No, my conclusion is based on… and…"

In this case, long answers can be effective for diffusing the hostility. Maintain a neutral expression, and maintain eye contact with the questioner. Focus on the issue at hand and use this time to reinforce your ideas. Don’t let your emotions dictate your response.

Example: "How can you suggest such a flawed idea to solve this issue?"

What's essential about your response here is that you do not repeat the inflammatory word (in this case, it would be "flawed"). Keep a cool head, and summarize the issue without repeating the word that the questioner used.

For example: You might start your response saying, “The issue at hand is what impact this solution will have on our user group going forward… ”

You can then use this time to provide more information about how you came to this solution for this particular user group. Respond on your terms, not the terms of the questioner.

Example: "What kinds of sources did you look at to come to your conclusion?"

This type of hostile question is difficult to convey in a written form because they will sound similar to a direct question. The question is not using any inflammatory words or asking you to agree with a negative, but the question may still be hostile depending on the tone

In these situations, ignore the tone and respond as if the question was asked in a completely straightforward way–as difficult as that may be. Stay calm and give the questioner the information in a simple, direct way.

Example: "Given your background and limited knowledge on this subject, why did you even choose this topic for your presentation?"

Negative preconditions refer to the inclusion of negative assumptions or statements about the presenter or their work before the question is even asked. By framing the question in a negative way first, the presenter is then put into a defensive position, which makes it harder to provide a confident or satisfactory answer.

Similar to inflammatory trigger words, try to ignore the negative preconditions and focus exclusively on the issue at hand.

For example: "During this project I learned… which has a major impact on… As I stated earlier in the presentation, I was drawn to this topic because of… and… which has helped me…"

It's important to note that these kinds of negative preconditions are not constructive or helpful in the classroom—ideally, your professor will confront the person who asked a question like this!

Multi-Part Questions

Multi-part questions are questions that have multiple distinct parts or sub-questions. Instead of asking a single, straightforward question, the questioner will weave together different inquires in the same question.

For example: "I appreciated that your project focused on renewable energy sources—I was curious about a few things: What are the advantages of those sources in Ontario? Are they more expensive than our current energy solutions? What's their potential for widespread adoption here?"

As a presenter, it can be difficult to keep track of all these different questions—in most cases, the questioner genuinely wants more information, but they know you'll only have time to call on them once during the Q&A session.

You can approach this situation by answering each part separately. It can help to pretend a different questioner asked each question. Make sure that you're concise with your answers so that other audience members can ask their questions as well.

If you're having trouble remembering each part of the multi-part question, you can ask: "Could you remind me of your next question?" There's nothing wrong with briefly asking the questioner to repeat a part of their question—it shows that you care about providing a complete answer for your audience.

Long-winded 'Questions'

Long-winded 'questions' are more of an experience than a question.

In this situation, an audience member will flood you with their opinions or personal stories and there may or may not be a question tacked on to the end of their speech—but you're still expected to respond to them.

For example: "This is more of a comment, but your presentation reminded me of a project I worked on where I had to… It's refreshing to see someone else explore this topic, I only just learned about it last term when we… I was hoping to learn more about… I added something similar in my presentation for… … …"

A simple way to handle this situation is to acknowledge the higher-level, big picture ideas in what the person has said, and to then talk to the central idea of their 'question'. You don't need to address all the smaller opinions or ideas the person has shared—just stay focused on the key ideas or arguments from your presentation.

You could start by saying, "Clearly, there are a lot of issues going on here. Overall, I would say…" and then either answer the question or summarize your key ideas in about 2-3 sentences. Then you can move on to the next questioner.

Watch the video below to learn about the tone you should use during your Q&A session. You'll also learn specific phrases you can use to clarify questions or communicate when you're not sure about an answer.

Tips to Run a Successful Q&A Session

Successful presenters prepare for the Q&A session with the same focus and detail as their presentations—this is a chance for you share extra details, clarify any confusion, and make a great last impression on your audience.

Check the boxes below to learn what you should do before and during your presentation to create a smooth, successful Q&A!

Before Your Presentation

You might not know exactly which questions you'll be asked during your Q&A session, but there are still ways you can prepare yourself.

Try the following three techniques before your next presentation:

Work out the answers to these questions as you're working on your presentation—these questions can help you figure out where you might need to do more research. Decide which questions you'll incorporate into your presentation, and which ones you'll leave to the Q&A session.

Test out your presentation with a friend, a family member, or a tutor at Sheridan's Tutoring Centre . Ideally, you want to test your presentation on someone with little to no knowledge about your topic—they can help point out areas that aren't clear so you can add more detail. You can book a free tutoring appointment on TutorOcean .

Spend time practicing your answers by speaking them out loud. The more you prepare, the more natural you will sound during your Q&A session!

During Your Q&A Session

Use an open-ended question (e.g., "Who has the first question?" "What topic should we start discussing?") rather than a 'yes/no' question (e.g., "Are there any questions?" to get the conversation started.

If you've waited about 30 seconds and no one is asking a question, you could start the Q&A by talking about something that interested you in you research. For example, "When I started my research, I had a lot of questions about 'X'. A key part of 'X' is…"

Repeating questions serves two main functions: First, it allows you to clarify what the questioner has asked; second, it helps to make sure your audience has heard the question.

You don't need a quick answer for everything—give yourself the chance to think about what the questioner has asked, what you know about the topic, and what information might help the questioner.

Aim for 2-3 sentences in your answer. If you feel like your answer needs to be longer, offer a summary of your ideas in 2-3 sentences and then offer to either talk to the questioner after your presentation or to e-mail the questioner (or the class) with a longer response.

It's better to say, "I don't know, but let me look that up and I'll send a note to the class" than it is to make up an inaccurate or misleading answer.

If someone asks you a difficult question, respond calmly and politely. Help the questioner feel heard by briefly acknowledging their concern or point or question, and then offer to follow up with them after the Q&A session is over.

End your Q&A session by thanking everyone for their thought-provoking questions. Make sure that you return the favour by engaging with your classmates during the Q&A session of their presentations too!

  • Last Updated: Jan 12, 2024 2:29 PM
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      How to handle post-presentation questions

How to handle post-presentation questions

Doug Nel

Author : Doug Nel

Posted : 25 / 11 / 20

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Woman raises hand to ask a question during a presentation

If that’s true for you, it’s understandable. You could be worried about saying the wrong thing or being hit with hostile or left-field questions that you can’t answer.

But it’s really worth taking a moment to reframe the experience. Those questions are a good thing. They’re signals that your audience is engaged and paying attention to what you have to say.

And with a typical Q&A taking place at the end of a presentation, it’s also a critical time to make the positive final impression that your audience will remember.

Don’t worry. With the right preparation, you can be ready and more in control than you may think.

Anticipate your audience’s questions

There’s no reason you have to go in totally blind. You’ll already have thought about your audience when you were preparing for your presentation. Now just put that insight and empathy to good use again to prepare for the questions you might face.

Ask yourself, which parts of your talk will concern your audience most? What could your message or recommendations mean for them? Will they be resistant to anything, and if so, what and why? Take a little time to note the questions that come up when you put yourself in their shoes. Then plan how you would answer them.

Decide your Q&A policy and prime your audience

You don’t have to save questions for the end. Your policy on when to take them will vary depending on the type of presentation you are making. In something like a tutorial or workshop, the style is interactive and you’ll probably welcome questions throughout. In a more lecture-style presentation, you may wish to save them to the end.

Ultimately though, it is up to you. Make your decision and then share it: you are in control here. The audience will be willing to accept your policy − as long as you tell them what it is!

And if you say early on ‘I’ll be taking questions at the end, so do note any you have,’ you’ll also prime them. You’ll start their mental gears turning, and you’re more likely to face lively discussion rather than stony silence when you’ve finished your talk.

How to invite questions at the end of your presentation

A meek ‘Any questions?’ at the end – especially if none follow – is an underwhelming way to finish and could undermine the hard work you put in on your presentation. So be proactive instead: actively invite questions from the audience.

Priming them at the beginning that you’ll be taking questions is a great start. But there’s more you can do. Sometimes people just need a nudge. Here are some ways to encourage an initially reserved group to speak up:

  • Ask them a question or two that dig into elements of your presentation: do they agree? How does their experience compare? Have a few of these ready in advance.
  • If you can, plant a question with a friendly member of the audience (or plant a friend with a question in the audience), so they can get the ball rolling.
  • Spark further ideas using the questions you came up with earlier while considering the audience’s perspective. Introduce one by saying, ‘One concern I’ve heard about this is …’ or ‘A common question at this point is …’. You can invite opinions on the question and ultimately answer it.

Approach questions positively

Always be positive about questions, even the tricky ones. It will both reflect well on you and create an inclusive atmosphere, encouraging others to ask something.

If someone does ask a tough question, be honest and openly admit that. Your attitude in receiving the questions – and showing you’re happy to seek out more information, where relevant – is much more important than knowing absolutely everything.

So always take care not to appear defensive or unwilling to answer. If you don’t have the facts you need, say so – but say that you will find them and provide an answer (by email or however otherwise makes sense). You’ll win respect for your honesty and attention to detail.

Never go on the offensive, make something up or simply ignore the question – all three of these approaches risk damaging your reputation and derailing your goals.

Listen to the full question

Let your questioners ask their questions in full. This will ensure you don’t misinterpret what’s being asked and also gives you more time to formulate your answer.

Try to avoid someone else adding a supplementary to the question, otherwise you’ll be torn about which to answer. If this does happen, state which you will answer first and which second, so it’s clear you have acknowledged both.

And if a single question contains more than one part, answer them in the order you find most useful.

Summarise and repeat questions back

Other people in the audience may not hear or understand a question, so always summarise and repeat it before answering.

This is also useful for you, as it will give you more time to find your answer – or clarify the question for yourself. If you’re not totally sure what you’re being asked, reframe the question back, saying ‘If I understand you correctly, you’re asking …. Is that right?’

Be aware if there could be a hidden agenda behind a question. You may want to make reference to it (tactfully) in your summary repetition and so bring the true question to the surface.

And don’t be afraid to pause for a moment to consider your response. It’s natural to want to rush to fill any silence, but you don’t need to. Taking that time shows you are taking the question seriously and giving it thought.   The post-presentation Q&A doesn't have to be scary. A little preparation and a positive approach can turn it into a constructive (even enjoyable) experience. @EmphasisWriting Click To Tweet  

Answer concisely and keep it inclusive

Make your answer concise. Don’t use it as an opportunity to begin another lecture. This section of the event isn’t just about you or any one audience member. Everyone should have a chance to ask his or her question, so there is no need to spend a lot of time in a dialogue with a single questioner. Keep it feeling open and inclusive.

And keep coming back to the group at large. You can do this by connecting one person’s point to another’s, putting questions back to the whole room or noting the broader significance of an individual’s comment.

How to handle difficult questions

It is possible that you’ll be faced with an awkward question or two, so it’s good to be prepared for that. Knowing you’re ready to deal with anything that comes up will give you confidence.

Questions can be difficult for different reasons: besides not knowing the answer, you might feel the questioner is deliberately trying to trip you up or even that they’re attacking you personally.

If an audience member poses a question that doesn’t seem relevant, you can first try to unpack it to see if you can uncover the connection. This can be as simple as saying, ‘Can I ask what makes you ask that question?’

Or, if a question obviously has no bearing on your subject, politely note that it doesn’t seem like part of the current discussion. You could also let them know that you’d be happy to speak with them about it separately.

If someone is being deliberately awkward or inflammatory, don’t rise to the provocation. There are a few ways in which you can undermine their efforts while keeping the higher ground. (If the person is clearly just stirring up trouble, it’s also likely the other members of the audience will be on your side.)

You can try one of these tactics:

  • Summarise and repeat to highlight the silliness of the question, then use one of the techniques above for dealing with irrelevancies.
  • Say ‘Yes, but what is the real question here?’ and shift the discussion somewhere sensible.
  • Give a very succinct answer – even a mere ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – and move on to the next question.

  Be careful though. While some may like to test you, it’s important to never take anything personally and certainly don’t launch any personal attacks – even if one has been made on you.

Keep your commentary focused on the topics, not on people. Remember: someone attacking you directly makes them look bad, not you. An aggressive or defensive response will reflect badly on you too.

A constructive closing

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  Ready to learn even more? Work one-to-one on your presentation-writing skills with one of our expert trainers or join our scheduled presentation-writing courses . If your team are looking to upskill, we also offer tailored in-house training .

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He's also one of our expert business-writing trainers and our lead course developer. He's helped clients as diverse as London Business School, Airbus, Deutsche Bank and Aon to make more of an impact with everything they write.

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How to handle questions during a presentation

Posted by Belinda Huckle  |  On January 29, 2022  |  In Presentation Training, Tips & Advice

In this Article...quick links

1. Tell the audience in advance when you will be taking questions

2. anticipate questions in advance, 3. realise that questions are a good thing, 4. make eye contact with the questioner, 5. always take a brief pause before launching into your answer, 6. be sure that you understand the question they are asking or point that they’re making, 7. acknowledge how valuable the question they’re asking is, 8. always keep your cool, 9. be honest if you don’t know the answer, 10. answer in sections if the question is a long one, 11. check-in with the questioner after you have given your response, follow us on social media for more great presentation tips:.

You’ve prepared your presentation, practised it a dozen times and you’re ready to go. But what’s the one thing that might throw you off course, undermine your confidence and your credibility? An awkward question. One that comes at an inopportune time, or one that’s difficult, or one with a complicated answer, or one you can’t answer! So it will come as no surprise that a question we get asked frequently centres around how to handle questions during a presentation!

Think about your work or everyday life, when someone asks you a question, how do you usually respond? Do you take a minute to think about your answer before launching into an explanation?

Do you interpret their question as a challenge of your authority/knowledge/intelligence and become defensive? Do you answer a question with another question? Did you notice that we’re asking a lot of questions right now…?

There are seemingly a thousand ways to answer a question and the kind of answer you give and how you deliver it can go a long way in helping to build positive relationships with other people, as well as facilitating constructive and helpful debates and conversations about certain issues and topics.

handling questions during a presentation

This is especially true in workplace environments, where you may be giving a presentation to your client, or delivering the quarterly business results to your team.

Questions may arise from the audience , which do have the potential to throw your presentation off course or set a bad tone in the room if not handled well. Some people can even inadvertently come across as rude, curt or dismissive when answering questions, simply because they feel attacked or they’re rushing to get back to their presentation before they lose their train of thought.

So in today’s blog post you’ll learn how to handle questions during a presentation. We’ve given you some specific advice to follow when answering questions and how to always remain courteous, on-track and respectful of the question-asker – so that in turn, you look professional and knowledgeable.

One of things that can sometimes throw you off course is being asked a question when you are mid-flow through a presentation or least expect it. It can interrupt your train of thought and momentarily put you off balance.

One way to avoid this is to agree in advance when you will be taking questions; anytime, at the end of each section, or at the end of the presentation. This way you won’t be surprised when they come up.

handling questions from the audience

Whilst you are preparing your slides or deck, think about the questions you might be asked around the content and formulate your answers ahead of time.

Look at the content through the eyes of the audience and try to anticipate where their views might differ or where they might need clarification.

Is there any additional data or information that you could take along to the presentation that might help you to answer some of these questions?

You won’t be able to predict every question in advance, but by giving it some thought it will give you a foundation on which to base your answers and hopefully make it clearer to you how to handle questions during a presentation that you might be expecting!

It’s important to remember first and foremost that the fact that people are asking you a question in the first place means that they’re interested and engaged in what you have to say.

Either they want more information, they need clarification, they’re curious to know more, or they want to test your thinking, logic, and recommendations.

So, a question should always be taken as a good sign, and met with an extra boost of enthusiasm and confidence on your side .

Unfortunately, we’ve seen all too many presenters use the fact that someone has asked a question as an opportunity to adjust their microphone, check their slides, straighten their clothes, drink some water, wander around the room or stage… And we can’t say how much of a big no-no this is! It is definitely not how to handle questions during a presentation!

Becoming immediately and significantly distracted when someone is asking you a question can make you look as though you don’t really care about the question being asked, and can be quite disrespectful.

So be sure to maintain eye contact, nod regularly , and give the questioner your full attention.

Remember that it’s not just about your verbal response, your body language can be a powerful tool or a dead give away if you are feeling anxious or unconfident.

So be sure to show your interest in the question and questioner.

Pausing before handling questions during a presentation

No matter whether someone is asking for some data or facts from you, questioning your way of doing things, or simply asking for more information, the first thing to do is to pause briefly after they’re finished asking their question, even if you know what your answer will be straight away.

There are 3 main reasons for this:

  • It gives the person time to finish their question, and add any clarifying points.
  • It shows that you are taking the time to consider the question, which shows respect.
  • It gives you time to think of the best answer, and deliver it eloquently, rather than launching in, rushing through, and coming across as confused or uncertain.

clarify the question before answering

One of the best communication techniques in life and business is to clarify and even repeat or paraphrase a question or point someone is making to you, as it helps avoid misunderstandings.

This is no less true while giving presentations as well, so when needed be sure to ask the questioner to expand or fine tune their point.

Remember, if you don’t understand the question, chances are you’ll give the wrong answer.

Repeating or paraphrasing a question also has the added bonus of ensuring that everyone else in the room has heard the question as well. Plus it gives you some extra thinking time too!

Don’t forget, if there is someone in the room who can add additional weight to your answer or expand in another area which is relevant, don’t be afraid to invite them to contribute also.

The old saying, “There are no silly questions” definitely rings true here, so you need to communicate this by making the questioner feel that their question was valid and constructive.

This needs to be done genuinely, and there are plenty of good ways to express an acknowledgement before giving your response:

  • “That’s a question I asked myself”
  • “That’s a question a lot of people have asked us recently”
  • “I’m not surprised you’re asking that given …”
  • “I think the point you’re making is a good one”
  • “That’s a question we have discussed at length within our team”
  • “Many thanks for your question. You’ve reminded me to touch on …”
  • “In most situations, you’d be right, and I would agree with you”
  • “That’s a really interesting point and not one we had considered”

It’s a good idea to practise these regularly, but always make sure the way you acknowledge the question is genuine or you’ll sound rehearsed and not authentic or credible as a presenter.

If a question is off-topic and not relevant to the presentation you might want to ask where the question is coming from, answer briefly and offer to give a more detailed response at a later date.

When it comes time to actually give your answer don’t get angry or defensive, no matter what the question is. This is not how to handle questions during a presentation in a professional, credible way!

We’ve all seen those video clips of celebs or politicians losing their temper after an interviewer asks them a less-than-favourable-question, and the only one who almost always comes off looking silly is the interviewee themselves.

So if you find yourself in a similar situation, even if the question was intended to be intentionally provocative, losing it or getting visibly emotional will make you come across as immature and unprofessional. If you feel yourself getting emotional, simply ask if you can get back to them at a later time.

woman handling questions during a presentation

We all have to admit to bluffing our way through an answer to a question we’re just not 100% sure of every now and then… But a presentation is not the time to do it.

Making up an answer or trying to dance around the question completely is a surefire way to come across like you don’t know what you’re talking about, which can really undermine your confidence for the rest of the presentation. Instead, here are some options for managing questions when you don’t know the (entire) answer.

  • Tell them what you do know. E.g. if someone asks “What is the current rate of inflation?” you may not know the exact answer so you could reply by saying “I’m not sure of the precise rate of inflation right now, though I can look that up for you if you like. What I can tell you is that it is rising faster now than it has done for many years.”
  • Tell them why you don’t know. E.g. if someone were to ask the above inflation question, you could reply by saying “The rate of inflation is extremely volatile at the moment. Let me look up the most recent data and get that figure to you straight after the presentation.”
  • Tell them someone else knows. Again, using the inflation question, you might reply “That’s a hot topic at the moment and our CFO has just published a report looking at the current rate of inflation and the drivers behind it. I’ll email that report to you later this week.”
  • Tell them you don’t know. It’s not ideal to admit that you don’t have the answer to hand but it’s better than making up the answer. In this scenario it’s imperative that you acknowledge the question so that you still come across as confident and in control rather than nervous and on the back foot. E.g you could say “That’s a very valid question you raise. I don’t have that data with me but I will send that information to straight after this presentation.”

Curly questions can really rock our confidence so stay calm, take your time and remember that no one expects you to know everything. You’re only human after all!

If the question is a particularly long one, ‘chunk’ up your answer into sections so your answer stays clear and concise.

For example, if someone asks you when a project is going to be completed, you might say:

“That’s actually a critical question as timings on this project are particularly tight (acknowledging worth). Based on our last status update, stage 1 will be completed by xxx, stage 2 by xxx and stage 3 by xxx.”

Or, if their question is multi-part, answer each part separately before moving onto the next.

You could say something like “And to address the second part of your question…”

check in with the questioner during the presentation

After you finish your answer it’s important to check-in with the questioner to make sure that you’ve answered the question to their satisfaction. You can do this by simply asking:

  • “Does that answer your question?”
  • “Can I provide you with any more detail?”

Or, you can also check in non-verbally, such as by making eye contact with them and smiling. If you get a smile back, you can assume you’ve answered the question to their satisfaction. If you get a puzzled look or a frown, we recommend you follow up with a verbal check-in.

So, by learning how to handle questions during a presentation, following all these important points, and being thoroughly prepared before your presentation, it will help to  calm your nerves and leave you feeling ready to engage with your audience, stimulate constructive conversations, all while looking confident, professional and in control.

And if you’re going back into the meeting room after a long period of remote working you can brush up on your in-person presentation skills by reading this blog .

Tailored and personalised presentation skills training

If you’re specifically looking to learn how to handle questions during a presentation, or more generally to build the presentation skills of your team (or yourself) through personalised training or coaching that is tailored to your business, we can help.

For nearly 20 years we have been the Business Presentation Skills Experts , training & coaching thousands of people in an A-Z of global blue-chip organisations – check out what they say about our programs .

To find out more, click on one of the buttons below:

Check out our In-Person Programs AU

Header image credit.

Belinda Huckle

Written By Belinda Huckle

Co-Founder & Managing Director

Belinda is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of SecondNature International. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training both In-Person and Online, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.

Belinda believes that people don’t have to change who they are to be the presenter they want to be. So she developed a coaching approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.

She has helped to transform the presentation skills of people around the world in an A-Z of organisations including Amazon, BBC, Brother, BT, CocaCola, DHL, EE, ESRI, IpsosMORI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Moonpig, Nationwide, Pfizer, Publicis Groupe, Roche, Savills, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.

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Questions after your presentation signal success

Many presenters are relieved when there are no questions at the end of their presentation. But no questions is rarely a good sign.

red question mark 165419798

I have been asking the executives, managers and business students I work with to identify the top three concerns they have when called upon to deliver a work presentation. Everyone has their own personal torments, but one common concern is “questions.” Many are nervous about being asked questions before, during or after their presentation.

Why questions can be troublesome

Different people have different reasons for being concerned about questions, but they tend to fall into one of three main groups.

1. Interruptions: Questions before or during the presentation can disrupt the presenter’s momentum and train of thought. This is often a companion to another top concern: forgetting what you need or want to say. The concern is that if you take a question, you may have trouble recovering: picking up where you left off in your prepared remarks, and getting back on track.

2. Loss of control: Some are afraid that questions may be signs that the audience is growing restive. Questions may be perceived meddlesome or even as hostile acts designed to undermine the speaker’s authority or to hijack the presentation.

3.  Lack of preparation: At the most basic level, the concern is that they will be asked a question to which they do not know the answer or struggle to remember and articulate the answer. Their concern is that not having a ready answer makes the presenter appear unprepared, incompetent or even ignorant.

Questions are not a sign of failure

Questions can be taken as a sign of failure. You failed to cover everything you needed to cover in the presentation. You have not been clear enough in your delivery. Many presenters are relieved when there are no questions at the end of their presentation. No questions? Great. Success!

Why questions are good

But questions are not only good, they are essential. The successful presenter wants to be asked questions. Responding to off-topic, nuisance or ill-informed questions will be addressed in another post, but good and even difficult on-topic questions are what you want as a presenter.

  • Questions mean that at least some members of your audience are paying attention. They are engaged and can help draw other members of the audience in.
  • A presentation is a shared experience between the presenter and members of the audience. The audience is not only present, they have a role to play. They bring a collective product, market or institutional knowledge to the presentation that effectively tests the value and strength of the presenter’s message. They want to be recognized as participants in this experience and the best way to be recognized is to ask questions.
  • Audience members are also interested in what the other members of the audience are thinking and how they are reacting to the presentation. They appreciate good questions from other members of the audience.
  • Questions represent instant feedback. Questions from the audience give the presenter a better sense of where the interests of the audience lie. Because you have to make decisions about what will fit into the time allotted for the presentation and how much information your audience can absorb, you will by definition be leaving things out. Any question will in effect just be giving you a helpful prompt re: something you need to cover.
  • Finally, transforming the thinking of your audience is the objective of a successful presentation and it begins by planting or exciting questions in the minds of the audience. Questions from the audience indicate that you have been an effective catalyst for change.

How to respond to questions

The most important thing is to acknowledge a question and to thank the audience for the question. You can say: “That is a great question.” Or, “That is a really interesting question.” Or, “That is a really tough question.” Or anything to that effect.

Take a quick look around the audience once the question has been asked. If everyone is heads up and leaning in, you know this is a question that is of interest to everyone. If heads are down or attentions are turning elsewhere, you know that this question is esoteric. Tailor your answer accordingly.

You always have three seconds of silence to work with. So take a couple of seconds to think before responding. If you know the answer, keep your answer short. Just answer the question and offer to discuss it further with anyone who is interested after you finish the presentation. Try to always leave the audience wanting more.

There is no shame in not having the answer to every question that any member of the audience could possibly ask. Don’t speculate as to what the answer might be. If you don’t know the answer, you basically have two options. Either tell them you do not have that information at hand but you know where to get it and will provide it to them after the presentation, or tell them that you are very interested in that question or information, you will definitely look into it, and if the answer turns out to be useful your analysis and work you will incorporate it immediately. And again, thank them for the question.

The successful presentation is one that ends in discussion

There are two legendary performances in the theatre that ended in general riot. The first was the premiere of Victor Hugo’s romantic drama Hernani that challenged the French classical tradition. The second was the premiere of Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring . Both evoked strong emotional responses from establishment audiences who felt they were having a new, strange and wholly unacceptable art form imposed upon them. In the business presentation, even when presenting ideas that will be disruptive, we prefer to foment constructive discussion that centers on how best for all in attendance to proceed in acting upon the information they have just received. We do that by transforming the audience’s thinking. That means inviting questions from the audience.

So the successful presenter closes with, “Thank you for your attention. I hope you have questions.”

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