Five Keys to Prompting Questions in a Presentation

The best parts of most business presentations are the question and answer sessions. Of course, it’s a good idea to tell your listeners to “feel free to ask questions at any time.” But there are several strategies to ensure that your audience engages in lots of Q&A. Here are five.

  1. Reserve half of your time for Q&A: If you have a 30-minute presentation, you should prepare no more than 15 minutes of “lecture.” Too often, Q&A is treated as an afterthought: “We’ll take questions at the end.”  But Q&A is when the audience can seek answers to its most important questions.  Why not give them plenty of time for getting those answers?
  2. Don’t put off raised hands: When someone raises a hand with a question, drop everything and answer it.  Even if the question deals with something that you will address later. You want to make it clear to the audience that you welcome questions. Putting off questions – such as putting them in the so-called “Parking lot”— sends the message that you consider questions a bother.  If the question is a little out of order, give a brief answer and tell them that you’ll deal with it more as the presentation goes forward.
  3. Keep the slides to a minimum: Having too many slides sends the message that the presentation is very tightly packed and that you probably won’t have time for questions.  The audience thinks, “Wow, this guy has 60 slides. If I ask any questions, we’ll never get out of here.”   If you have fewer and simpler slides, it sends the message that the presentation is “roomy” and has plenty of time for audience interaction.
  4. Look happy to get questions: Smile at the questioner and nod with interest.  The reason that you’re giving a presentation is to help the audience understand.  You should be thrilled when someone asks a question. Act thrilled.  You don’t have to say “great question.”  Just take the question seriously and not like it’s an interruption. Smiling at the questioner is like rewarding a dog for sitting on command.  Once rewarded, the chances are the audience will ask more.
  5. Ask yourself a question: Sometimes presenters will ask for questions and no one in the audience will raise their hand.  First, we recommend that you wait.  Often, if you sit silent for 10 seconds or so, people will begin to raise their hands.  But you can also “prime the pump” by asking the first question: “One of the most common questions we get is. . .”  That will often get the Q&A session going.

 

 

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