Dealing with Questions in a Presentation (part 2)

In our last post, we discussed what you could do before your presentation when you know there’s going to be a Q&A session. In this post we’ll look at what you can do during the session as well as when you get a question you don’t know the answer to.  There is also a video of our webinar at the end of this post.


During the Q&A session

Do you ever find yourself waffling, or talking a bit more than you planned to when you’re answering a question?

A lot of our clients do especially if they’re unprepared for the question. We use the following acronym for responding to questions really crisply and clearly:




You might think this one is obvious, but how many times have you wanted to jump straight in with the answer as soon as a question was asked, so you would look knowledgeable?



After you have stopped … you think!  Sounds basic, but it gives you a chance to think properly before you open your mouth.



Stopping and thinking gives you chance to organise your thoughts. Use 3 words to help: What, Why, How…

  • What do I think?
  • Why do I think that?
  • How can I substantiate my answer or make my point?

For example, let’s say someone has suggested trying something a bit ‘off the wall’ in terms of a project and they’ve asked what you think about it.

Stop and think:

What do I think? It’s rubbish, it won’t work.

Why do I think that? Because we tried it about three years ago and it was an unmitigated disaster.

How can I make my point? Explain that a few years ago we tried something similar etc.



Now that you have gone through the Stop, Think and Organise steps – you are now ready to respond to the question.

When you are responding you choose the relevant parts of your thoughts.  For example:

“We actually tried that a few years ago …. (only go into an appropriate amount of detail here).

So, with that in mind I feel/believe it is unlikely to work.”

With this structure you have not been as blunt as you may have been, ie calling their suggestion rubbish (!) which might not land too well.



The most difficult part, you keep your mouth shut!

It sounds really basic, but you start by shutting up and you finish by shutting up. Closing your mouth stops you from waffling.  It also will stop you from asking the question that everybody asks… “does that answer your question?

Why do we do that when it can come across that we are not confident in our response?

We’ve prepared, we know we’ve got a good answer, we answer the question with real confidence and our voice intimates that we’ve now finished the answer, so close your mouth then. Do not then ask the questioner a question, otherwise the danger is that person takes over your whole Q&A session!

Now if you answer the question and you look back to the questioner and they’re looking a bit puzzled, you could say something like “do you need more clarification? Would you like a bit more detail?


What if nobody asks a question?

This is something we are often asked, and it is sometimes difficult to get people going with their questions. Sometimes nobody wants to be the first person to ask a question.

When that happens, we suggest you say, “who has the first question?”, this implies you really want these questions.

Another thing you could do is say “a question that I’m often asked is…” and hopefully that will lead to more questions from your audience.


Dealing with the curve ball

If you’ve ever felt like a rabbit in the headlights when a question comes in that really you hadn’t even thought of in terms of the ADQ, the main thing to remember is not to let it show!

Practice your poker face – you might be freaking out inside, but your face just looks like you’re stopping and thinking. Which is what the audience will be used to, because you’ve been using the STORK method all the way through the Q&A session. So even if a tricky question comes in and you need to take an extra-long pause, it doesn’t matter.

The main thing to remember with curve ball questions is that you are not Einstein! You don’t know everything, and it is okay to not know the answer to a question.

You don’t need to make something up, or fumble around, just be honest.


If a question is asked and it’s not your area of expertise, let them know – say something like “that’s not my area of expertise, could I suggest you talk to …

Equally, you could say something along the lines of “while that’s not my area of expertise I know who can get that information for you, let me take your details and I’ll get them to contact you within…

Don’t start trying to answer something that you really are not in a position to answer.

Go parallel

Another alternative is to ‘go parallel’. For example, if you’re talking about figures and you’re asked a question about what it will look like in the next 3 years – you might say, “while I can’t tell you about the next 3 years, I can tell you for the next year that this is what it looks like…”, so you’re giving them something in and around the question they’ve asked.


However, if you are asked the above question a second time, then you will need to let them know that you don’t have that information with you but that you can get it to them by a certain date and give it a deadline.

It’s not a problem to not know the answer, but it’s how confidently you deliver the response that counts.

If you haven’t got the information to them by the deadline, let them know that you haven’t forgotten about them and that you’re still working on it.

Thank them for raising the question and say that it’s something you will definitely look into, so you’re acknowledging their question and that you’re grateful they’ve asked it.

Another phrase that comes in handy with those curve ball questions is, “I’ve never been asked that before…”, particularly if it’s true.

One thing to avoid is rating the question. Do not respond by saying “good question”, or “great question”, in our experience that’s the standard response when the person doesn’t actually know the answer, so be mindful of using that phrase.

Always remember, regardless of how many questions you are asked, it’s better to be honest than trying to be Einstein!

If you or your team would like help with presentations, get in touch to ask about our in-company and virtual 1+2 day masterclasses.


As promised, you can watch our full webinar below…