Handling questions in your presentation

As well as writing here, and over at the presentation genius blog, I write a lot of guest blogs here and there. (By the way, checkout the Confidence Month over at the PG site, it’s a big project, all about being confident and handling nerves.)

One of the biggest guest posts I’ve written in a while is on handling your audience’s questions: the original text is at the fabby new Presentation Guru site: http://www.presentation-guru.com/techniques-for-handling-questions-during-a-presentation/

Feel free to head over there and read the full text (but come back, okay?) but here are the key points and a few extra ideas.

Key points

It’s easy to forget, but we should be celebrating questions. Audiences don’t ask questions if they don’t care. That means that any time the audience wants to know more you’ve got some measure of success. Even if all the questions are things you think you’ve covered in your presentation and you feel like you’re wasting your time, be pleased that people care enough to ask for the information a second time! ;)

Be particularly pleased if they’re asking follow-up questions.

And if they’re asking what feel like irritatingly personal follow up questions you’re can be really pleased: it means people are trying to figure out how to apply your information to their personal circumstances.


The second key point is that you should prepare answers. And before you ask, yes, you can – you can make a reasonable guess about what the questions are going to be… if not the exact question at least the general topic. If you can’t, you might want to consider how well you’ve structured your presentation and how well you know your topic! ;)

Extra thoughts

The original article covered a lot of tools for sorting your questions – but it misses out one dirty trick that makes you look like a real pro…

When you’ve got a reasonable guess at what your questions might be, create slides that address those questions. Put them at the end of your presentation, after a black slide, and put a black slide between each of them. So far, so simple.

Now, put an elegant transition between all of these slides.

Finally, print out hardcopy of this part of your presentation, (or perhaps just the non-black slides, to save ink, eh?!) and do that with about half a dozen of them to a page. Now, alongside each slide-with-an-answer write in big, coloured pen (red sharpie for example) the slide number of the black slide before it.

For example, if the answer is on slide 215 (god help your audience! ;) ), write down 214.

Here’s how you use it

When you get a question which is addressed by the material you have on slide 215, you know glance down at your hardcopy, see the big number and type in 214, followed by return. This means you slide software (it works for both Keynote and PowerPoint) jumps magically to the black slide. Advance the slide as you would normally and you elegantly slide into your answer slide.

When you’ve finished answering the question, just advance the slide once more for an elegant fade to black. Now, when you need to jump to a completely different slide in a completely different part of the slide deck to answer the audience’s next question, you can hit the number of the relevant black slide, jump to it magically and you’re ready to fade in to the answer-slide. As all black slides look the same, your audience can’t see your slight of hand, and to them it looks like you’re elegantly moving nicely through your answers.

Look like a pro! :)

Simon is one of the UK's most highly regarded presentation skills trainers and professional speakers in the fields of presenting, confidence and emotional resilience.