How should I handle difficult questions?
The Q&A is, in my opinion, the best part of a presentation. Yet it is also the part most speakers dread! It seems you find the formal part of your presentation easier to deal with because you feel in control, safe in the knowledge that your train of thought won’t be interrupted and that everything will go exactly as you rehearsed. But when the people in your audience are given an opportunity to question you, you fall to pieces, worried that gaps in your knowledge will be exposed and that you will be made to look foolish in front of them. Suddenly public speaking becomes public exposure!
Remember why you speak in the first place.
Every talk is an opportunity to sell, be that a product or service or an idea or cause. Your presentation is the beginning of that conversation. The Q&A is the first opportunity your audience has to become part of that conversation, so savour every moment of it!
Who says you have to know everything?
No one knows everything about everything. It’s impossible.
If you are delaying making your first presentation because you feel you don’t know everything about your subject you will never make it onto the stage.
Even if you are a subject specialist there will be gaps in your knowledge. There is no shame in that at all.
Allow someone else to shine
If someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to it is not a trap. Nor is it a criticism. What it is is an opportunity for you to shine by allowing someone else to shine.
If you don’t know the answer to an audience member’s question, throw it out to the audience.
In doing so you show the people in your audience the side of you that is generous and giving, willing to concede that someone else in the room may have something of value to contribute to your presentation. Show the people in your audience the side of you that does not need to be right all of the time. People who confidently ask for help are very charismatic, and charismatic speakers are memorable and popular. So, the ‘tricky’ questions is actually a wonderful opportunity in disguise!
What if no one knows the answer?
If no one in the room knows the answer, thank the questioner for the great question and promise to find out and follow up with them at a later time.
Congratulations – you just made a friend and won the respect of everyone in your audience.
Learn more from this video…