Most people are nervous enough about having to stand up and make a presentation. All those eyes looking at you. Lots of expectations. And not only do you have to remember what you’re planning to say, you have to be persuasive and engaging and meaningful. Oh, and you have to think on your feet too.
It’s no wonder so many people dislike even the thought of having to make a presentation!
One aspect that not nearly enough attention is given to is handling questions. Instead – and I’ve seen this so many times in my consulting work – people depend on a strategy of hope; I hope they don’t ask me such and such!
Hope is not a strategy! Prepare for the hardest questions and you’ll nail it time and again. Here are 4 tips:
1. Don’t leave Q & A for the end. Unless you’re addressing thousands (and even then!), pose questions throughout your presentation and wait for someone to answer. Count at least 8 seconds before speaking again. (It helps if you look around the room as you count to yourself. Usually someone will feel sorry enough for you that they’ll ask their question! More often though it takes them about that long to phrase their question in their own heads [so that they don’t feel like they’re embarrassing themselves] to ask it.)
2. Prepare with your own questions. If you ask, “So how does that compare to what you’re doing now?” and no one responds, or asks a question in return, you might say, “When I was preparing, I was wondering if this really is comparing apples to apples.” Wait again – about 4 seconds. “My answer is that it is because with your …..”
3. Practice making people feel smart. Let’s say you’re asked a hostile question. Why do you think they’ve phrased the question with such hostility or frustration or anger? It’s because they are feeling stupid! What you just said is not what they believe and they are afraid you are right. They have to put you down, put your idea down, stop you from gaining traction and credibility. If they don’t, everyone will know they are stupid!
It’s your job as a presenter to help the other person overcome him/herself! You can listen for the tiny part of the question that you can authentically agree with and lead off with what they are right about: “You’re right, it could be possible that vanilla flavored coffee causes worms in people. I have not read any research to support that and thank you for bringing that up because what I have read is that the majority of people who drink vanilla flavored coffee are happier in the morning, more productive and have had no ill side effects or weird bugs.” (Disclaimer: I am drinking vanilla flavored coffee and needed an absurd example!)
Then, do not look back at the questioner! Do not ask, “Does that answer your question?” Move on. Move on! You have taken back control, quieted the insecure person, given relief to the rest of the group, and you go forward!
4. Don’t shame yourself! Sales people should not be surprised when they are asked, “But can’t I can get this cheaper at X?” or any variation of that question. Prepare for the objections you and your counterparts hear daily. Know how you can authentically answer to help the other person feel smart, answer the question authentically and sell your value prop. Don’t shame yourself just because you were hopeful the question would never come up in front of your entire executive team!
What other advice do you have? Do you agree with these points?