Getting feedback or answering questions in presentations can create the fear factor for many presenters, experienced or new. But they do not need to, if approached in the right way.
When to ask for Feedback or Questions
As the presenter, you get to choose when to take feedback or questions. But you need to tell your audience when you are going to take them and you do this in your initial introduction. See structuring of a presentation for more information. If you don’t tell them they will either not bother or interrupt you by asking whenever they feel like it. Both can result in either a disastrous or uninteresting presentation.
Most presenters will take them at the end of the presentation but this can be a big mistake. There is usually, that one member of the audience who thinks they are clever or funny. The one who thinks trying to embarrass you makes them look big. Or the grumpy, I know better than you, audience member who wants to ask difficult questions and doesn’t want to take your answers as correct.
I will deal with these nightmares shortly, but you do not want to end your presentation on these negative notes as it will make a great or a good presentation seem ineffective by the audience.
Always follow up the question or feedback session with a great ending. Recap what you have told them in the presentation and leave the audience with a positive message. Again see structuring of a presentation for more information on this.
Handling Feedback or Questions
When you are ready, ask the audience for any feedback or questions. Do this positively and with a smile. Make sure you look around the room and make eye contact with people.
Remember many audience members may have questions but dare not ask. We have all felt this way, most of us don’t like to be the first and we don’t want to ask what may be a stupid question. Encourage questions by asking if everyone understood the presentation? Are they happy with what they have learnt?
When answering questions, never direct your answer to the person who asked it, direct it to your whole audience. Just because they were the first to ask doesn’t mean others didn’t have the same question in mind.
The more questions the better and the truth is answering questions is much easier than remembering any presentation. But what if you don’t know the answer to a question? Don’t panic it is okay not to know the answer. Be honest and say that you don’t know but say you will find out and get back to them. Ask them to leave their email or contact details and make sure you do get back to them. Another way of handling a question you do not know the answer to, is to ask the audience if anyone there has the answer. This is a great way to get audience participation and engagement.
Handling the difficult customer
Remember no one likes the arrogant audience member, the one who wants to make life difficult for you. The majority if not all of your audience wants them to shut up too. Never engage in a war of words and do not try to win. Try to answer the question as best you can or say you cannot deal with this at the moment but that you will be happy to have a chat after the presentation. They hardly ever come to you after and if they do, they are less arrogant or aggressive as they no longer have an audience to play up to. If they are being really difficult and are offering negative comments rather than asking questions then ask the rest of the audience what their thoughts are on the persons comment. You will be surprised at how quickly the audience will turn on your difficult customer. Do not let it turn into a war though. Take control and ask that the issue be dealt with after the presentation so as not to waste everyone’s valuable time.
Ending the Questions and Feedback Session
You may be on a time schedule and you may need to control the time you spend on questions. Never just stop. Always say “we have time for one more question” this will give your audience a warning that the session is ending. If it’s obvious there are more people wanting to ask questions then tell them they will have an opportunity after the presentation has finished, whether that’s asking you face to face immediately after or by giving them your email address to write to and ask.
You may not be on a time schedule but it may be that the questions are only coming from a small number of your audience. Do not allow the session to run too long and keep other people listening to what will be seen as a group conversation, they are not part of. Do not ruin a good presentation by going on too long, no matter how much you are enjoying the chat.
The questions and feedback session can either make or break your presentation. Keep in mind your audience at all times during this part of the presentation.
I was once at conference where people were doing breakout presentations on different subjects. I was there mainly to find new trainers /presenters for my company That’s Why Training Ltd.
I attended one presentation and thought the presenter was really good. Funny, engaging and confident. A good candidate until it came to the questions. A lady at the front asked a question, which I didn’t hear. He then proceeded to go over to said lady and answer her question directly to her. I assume she asked another question as he continued to have a lovely chat with her and I could only hear some of his answer to a question I did not know. There were not too many people at the presentation but at this point a couple at the back left. He didn’t notice.
Now a really great presentation was completely ruined by a really bad and quite rude Question and Answer session. Needless to say I did not approach him to be part of my Company and you know what, I can’t remember the subject of his presentation or his name but I do remember how rude he was by ignoring his audience during the Question and Answer session.
I hope this article has been helpful and given you more confidence in handling questions and feedback during your presentation.
Please feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments section below. Oh and I love a good disaster story so feel free to leave those in the comments too.