What happens to presenters who are nervous when it’s time for questions? Often the presenter is simply too nervous to listen to the query, and just starts talking without providing a specific response. Or the presenter may not address the question at all, instead speaking about something else that is a “hot topic” and defending a particular position. Now the presenter is really in trouble: the questioner did not get an answer and a topic has been brought up that many people were hoping would not have to be discussed.
How do you stop this behavior? First, you must learn to ignore the chatter in your head that is saying:
What if I don’t know the answer?
- That’s not a very good question.
- The person asking me that question is out to put me down.
- How dare she ask me that? I know what I’m doing!
This self-defeating internal dialogue prevents you from answering a question concisely and to the point. Instead, you should be saying to yourself:
Calm down. You know the subject.
- People are curious and it’s their job to ask questions. Relax.
- Answer the question and stop talking. Then ask, Do you need more information about this now?
Here are some other techniques that work, depending on the situation:
Sometimes you can rephrase the question a bit and inquire, “Is this what you are asking?” You can also say, “I’m not exactly sure what you are asking. Can you rephrase your question?”
- Use a lead-in phrase to relax yourself. Try: “Yes, I know that has been a concern of yours.” Or “Yes, we are considering how to handle this particular problem if it occurs. Here is one idea.” Or “Your question deserves two different responses. The first response has to do with how we are working given the state of the project now. The second response has to do with how we will work when we get three new people.”
Finally, to be concise, to-the-point, and brief, you need to practice being asked questions and answering them, out loud.
Do visit Claudyne’s site at Wilder Presentations to sign up for her blog, her tweets or to download some free presenting tools.
Claudyne’s next Get to the Message Workshop in Boston is March 25 and 26. It is a very small intimate group with only ten people.