Business Skills: How to Answer 4 Types of Questions when Presenting in English.
Updated May 2022
You can picture the scene, can’t you?
You’ve just finished presenting in English. You feel it went well and you’re pleased with your effort. After all, you spent a lot of time preparing for and practising it.
Now it’s time for the questions and this is when you start getting anxious. Whilst you encourage questions, you dread them at the same time.
> What if I don’t understand the question (because my English isn’t good)?
> What if I take too long (pause too much) to answer it?
> What if I can’t find the words to give an articulate answer?
My audience is going to think that I am incompetent and I will lose credibility.
A recent prospect told me that he wants to feel confident answering random questions. The word ‘random’ means unprepared or unexpected or unplanned. To this person, being able to answer random questions would demonstrate his expertise and professionalism.
You’re so focused on wanting to answer the ‘random’ question effectively and eloquently in English that you forget that not all questions are equal.
As I see it, there are 4 types of ‘random’ questions.
1/ Good Questions
These are welcomed because it shows that your audience was listening. These questions give you the opportunity to connect with them even more which is the main objective of your presentation. The answer to their question is probably already in your presentation making it less stressful to answer it.
2/ Difficult Questions
No one likes them. It requires you to pause (which you don’t want to do) and think a little harder. You may not have the answers, not have the data in front of you or not be the right person to answer them. If the question has been asked by a senior person, it’s even more stressful.
However, you can make it easier for yourself by anticipating the questions. You do this by putting yourself in the audience’s shoes and imagining what questions they might have. Then you can prepare the answers ahead of time. You could even ask them to email you their questions ahead of time to give you time to think and find your words.
3/ Unnecessary Questions
You have probably already answered the question in your presentation and someone asks you the same question. It’s irritating but it happens especially when someone was distracted reading their emails or going on mute ta answer a call whilst you were speaking.
What you could do is to politely remind them that you have already answered it, briefly answer it again and continue. Here again, you have the answers in your presentation.
4/ Irrelevant Questions
Then there’s the person who asks a question that has got nothing to do with your presentation. These are what I would call ‘random’ questions because they are unstructured and often hard to understand and harder to answer. But you do have the option to postpone answering them.
How could you respond to these questions?
If you think about it, you have the answers to the questions you’re asked but may need a few seconds to consider your answer.
If you’ve been reading my newsletters for a while, you know that I encourage you to use pauses to your advantage and to stop thinking that you need to answer immediately.
But, there are often short phrases that you can use immediately to acknowledge the question before pausing.
Here are some examples.
“That’s a good point.”
“I’m glad you asked that.”
“You make an excellent point.”
“Thank you for asking that question.”
“I don’t have an immediate answer because it’s a complex issue.”
I don’t have all the data with me. Can I check it and get back to you via email?
“That’s an interesting question. What do you think?”
“I’m afraid I can’t comment on this at this stage.”
“My colleague is in a better position to answer your question. If I may, I will ask him/her to answer your question.”
“I think I answered that earlier.”
“Well, as I said…..”
“Well, as I mentioned at the beginning of the presentation….”
“I’m afraid I don’t quite see the connection.”
“Sorry, I don’t follow you.”
“To be honest, I think that raises a different issue. I’d be happy to discuss it later.”
What questions have you had as a presenter that were good, difficult, unnecessary or irrelevant? How did you respond?
How would you answer them in English?