After a presentation, there is usually a period of time when the audience is able to ask you questions. It is important during this time that you:

  • stay professional
  • don’t relax too much
  • answer the questions to the best of your ability

The presentation is still being observed and marked by the tutor; your performance during question time can have an effect on your final grade.

How to Handle a Question

There is not one way to handle a question but a five-step pattern that has been used successfully many times by presenters in the past is shown below.

  1. Welcome the question
That’s a good question
Thank you for that question

2. Echo the question to the audience (just in case some didn’t hear it and to give yourself time to think)

Helen is asking whether ...
John wants to know if ...

3. Pause (give yourself a little time to think. You do not need to rush into an answer)

... hhmm ...
Let's think about that for a moment ...

4. Answer the question (but don’t go on for too long).

5. Check satisfaction. Check that the questioner is happy with the response.

Does that answer your question?
Is that okay?

By following  this pattern you will stay professional and give yourself time to plan and deliver an answer.

What if I don’t know the answer?

If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer there are a number of strategies you can employ. The first strategy is probably to admit that you don’t know the answer. Usually the audience will understand that you cannot be expected to know everything about the subject.

I don’t really know the answer to that
I’m not sure about that

The next strategy is to try and answer the question partially. Take a guess: an educated guess. You will probably be on the right lines. If it is an opinion question then you should be able to say something.

I’m not sure but I think that ...
I don’t know but probably ...

The final strategy is to tell the questioner that you will answer the question later after the presentation. This can be useful if it is a technical question and you don’t have the data to hand but you know that you have it in your notes.

I don’t have the answer at the moment.
But if you see me afterwards
I’ll look in my notes.

Hostile Questions

Sometimes you may get a hostile question from an audience member especially if your topic is a controversial one. In this case it is important to stay calm and profession. Do not return the hostility. Persuade the hostile questioner that you understand their position but then politely disagree.

I understand your position
... but I’m afraid I disagree
I can see you point of view
...but I have a slightly different viewpoint

Over time developing a successful way of handling questions will add to the professionalism and quality of your presentation. It will take time but don’t ignore this aspect of presentation skills.