One of the biggest fears presenters have is the question and answer session that follows their presentation. This understandable. Fear comes from not knowing whether you will understand the question, or whether the question asked is one that you know the answer to. However, there is a way you can prepare for questions before your presentation that can help to remove your fears.
During the planning stage you will need to think carefully about when or whether to allow questions. In general, the smaller the audience, the more difficult it is to avoid answering questions. If you are presenting to 2000 people, then answering questions would be impractical (although I know that in some cases there is a Q&A session after the talk) However, if you are presenting to around 10 people, it would be almost impossible to avoid having to answer questions.
The secret here is to plan for questions. You can predict the kind of questions you will be asked, and if you cannot predict them, have a colleague or friend listen to your presentation and have them ask you questions. You will be able to judge the kind of questions you will be asked from this short exercise.
When planning for questions, make a note of the questions you think might be asked. Anticipate what the subjects will be asked about. In a product launch, if you have not already told your audience, they will want to know the price of your new product. They may perhaps want to know what margin you will be giving them. There is no excuse for not knowing the answers to these simple and basic questions. So find out!
There will of course be times when you will be asked a question that you simply do not know the answer to. Be prepared for these questions too. Depending on the type of question asked, have an honest answer ready. If you do not know the answer, be honest. Tell the questioner that you will get back to them later when you have the answer. Do not try and answer a question that you do not know the answer to, it is unprofessional and you will be found out.
If you do not understand what the questioner asked, because they spoke too quickly, or their pronunciation is not very good, just ask the questioner to repeat the question more slowly. Saying “I’m sorry, could you repeat your question a little slower” is not embarrassing or telling everyone that your English is not good, it is polite, and professional.
If you are not sure exactly what the questioner asked, repeat the question you think they asked, nine times out of ten the questioner will agree that you understand correctly and then you can answer the question.
So, do not fear the Q&A session – Prepare for it.