Answering Questions in a Presentation (Part 1 of 2)

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How do I answer presentation questions?
  • What do I do if people challenge me when I'm presenting?
  • Do I really have to answer questions after my presentation?

If you've ever given a presentation, you've probably been asked to leave time for questions. You may have even gone the extra step of thinking about what questions might you get. However, in our experience, 80% of the managers we've coached haven't, but maybe you're in the 20% category.

But have you ever thought not about the content of the questions, but rather the delivery of your answer? Even if you have a perfect answer, if the question is even slightly confrontational, your delivery could doom you from the start. Most presenters give away their fear and lack of preparation by behaving in ways that actually INCREASE the conflict inherent in a challenging question. In this podcast, the first of a two-part series, we discuss how to answer questions in a manner that leaves you, the presenter, in the best possible position.

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Your timing for this cast could'nt be

Your timing for this cast could'nt be better, as I have a major UK presentation coming up in 3 weeks time and as its about a research project I expect lots of questions, looking forward to part 2.

Perfect timing for me as well. I've got

Perfect timing for me as well. I've got a presentation coming up in 60 days at a conference. I'll be presenting to peers, so I'm expecting lots of skeptical questions.

Another well presented podcast and I

Another well presented podcast and I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the video podcasts. SOme of the podcasts, like today's, really lend themselves to a visual demonstration. Again - well done M&M!

Came across your podcasts on itunes a

Came across your podcasts on itunes a few weeks back; have downloaded the last 7 casts and checked out your archive-great site! I'm a depute head teacher in a school in Scotland and find many of your tips about the practical aspects of management very helpful. In education we have to manage the "big" 4-Learning & Teaching, People, Policies and Planning, and Resources, as well as teach our own classes, all within constraints of national exams, inspections, local council policies, etc, so all your is advice about time management, open door, reviews, etc is much appreciated!

Great cast you guys.... Mike, I hope

Great cast you guys.... Mike, I hope you are feeling better though. You sounded a little congested my friend.

Any how, this is an important part of presentations. I do quite a few presentations throughout the year. I may not be in the 20% completely, but pretty darn close. I will be presenting at our national leadership development workshop this year and I hope I can convince my other colleagues to utilize these techniques as well.

I am looking forward to part 2.

Thank you gentlemen.


I too found this cast highly relevant

I too found this cast highly relevant as I'll be making a presentation at the end of March. Mark & Mike, in the first part of your cast you were bantering about some people not wanting details. Today I read this quote: "We think in generalities, but we live in details." --Alfred North Whitehead, mathematician, philosopher, cosmologist. As quoted in "The 7 Powers of Questions" by Dorothy Leeds.

BTW, this cast is a perfect example of why M-T is so valuable. It's relevant "how-to" information that can be implemented at the next opportunity. It's not theory.

As such, I'll actually recommend your podcasts during my presentation on relationship management.

Thank you for making me a more effective executive.



M&M, do you recommend the same

do you recommend the same approach also when answering to "high high D" where interruptions, a fast response on the point and a strong reaction are expected ?
Thanks as always

I have to add one suggestion that's

I have to add one suggestion that's always added to my presentations. When I get a question, I try to nod and say something, enthusiastically, like "that's a terrific question!" For one thing, even if it's a terribly difficult question, it reinforces my mastery of the topic and control of the presentation. It also encourages more people to participate and ask more questions.

[...] .. venite din public în timpul

[...] .. venite din public în timpul unei prezentări: sfaturi bune la Manager Tools, în două parţi (1+2) [...]

As someone who presents often, I was

As someone who presents often, I was glad to find this podcast. Haven't gotten to #2 yet, but useful information so far. I do have one suggestion: get to the "meat" a little quicker. In this podcast, you don't even get to practical suggestions until well after 7 minutes into the podcast. While I enjoyed the conversational tone, it meandered quite a bit, so much that I had to laugh when you were talking about how "chock full" of information these podcasts are.

That being said, I found the information very valuable and so I'm offering these suggestions as a way to help you improve your impact.

On another topic, chuckbo says he likes to compliment the questioner with something like, "that's an excellent question." I'm curious about others' opinions on this, because for me I always feel like I'm being patronized when a presenter says that. Does the presenter ever say a question is bad? Certainly the questioner doesn't consider the question to be bad. I do think, however, that it's useful (and polite) to say "thank you" and when appropriate "that's an excellent point". Maybe the difference between a compliment for an "excellent question" versus one for an "excellent point" are subtle, but to me they're distinct.

I'm curious as to what others think!


David, I agree that I've never heard

I agree that I've never heard anyone say "that's a stupid question," but most of the time, presenters just launch right into their answer. I'll amend my note slightly to say that if I'm getting a series of questions, it's usually the first one that gets that compliment ... until someone has a question that starts a whole new thread. And I also agree with your "that's an excellent point" comment. I know that I mix a variety of phrases to keep things energetic. I know I'll do things like "that's an awesome question that reminds me to give you this example," or "that's a really perceptive question," or anything -- my goal is to generate a positive reaction for a question.

Along those lines, I thought I'd mentioned this, but maybe it was in another post (if this is a repeat, I'll apologize). Since I like interactive sessions and Q&A, one of my tricks is to prime the pump sometimes (not to be confused with giving someone a question in advance to ask me, which always feels too obvious. When a presentation isn't generating much Q&A, I've been known to do is ask "does anyone have any questions," and when no one asks one, I'll say "that's odd -- I expected someone to ask yada-yada-yada. So are there any questions." And then someone will ask that question, and it gets a good chuckle in the audience, and it spurs a whole series of questions after that. I've done this with peers or in a training environment -- haven't ever done that in a very formal presentation to my bosses.


Bilbo- Sorry this took so long.


Sorry this took so long. Yes, we recommend the same approach. I would, in some situations, NOT look back at the High D - since she might want to take over the presentation - and other times I might NOT ask her if I answered her question - she'll let me know if I didn't.


[...] Det finns alltid massa saker att

[...] Det finns alltid massa saker att lära sig när det gäller presentationsteknik. Jag följer exempelvis Garr Reynolds otroligt generösa blogg Presentation Zen. Sprängfylld med tips, verktyg och aktuella analyser, exempelvis av Al Gores presentationsteknik i An Inconvenient Truth. Och i förrgår kväll lärde jag mig en hel del nytt - medans jag strök en enorm hög med kläder. I samband med ett besök hos en potentiell kund till Podernize stötte jag nyligen på podcasten Manager Tools. Så under tiden strykjärnet värmdes upp laddade jag min multimediala mobil med Presentations Basics principle #1 samt Answering Questions i a Presentation avsnitt 1 och 2. Jämrans, att stryka kan vara så värdefullt (tid att lära). [...]