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How to Avoid Panic in Presentations: Coping with Questions

How to Avoid Panic in Presentations: Coping with Questions

    I’m sure you’ve felt it: the horror at the end of a presentation (which, let’s face it, can be a bit of a trauma in its own right) when you ask the following:

    “Any questions?”

    There seems to be one of two ways things can go at that moment — and neither fills you with delight.

    Firstly, there’s the Tumbleweed Option. Silence. Nothing — save perhaps for an embarrassed cough. Was your presentation really so bad that no one could understand it enough to think of a coherent question? Did you run over time so badly no one wants to hold up the next speaker, or – more importantly – get to the coffee break? Did you give such a perfect presentation that all possible questions were answered? (Spoiler alert: You didn’t.)

    Option two is worse. The Killer Questions Option. At least with the Tumbleweed Option you’ve got the silver lining that you get to leave the stage sooner. With the Killer Questions Option you get to stay there and risk exposing your ignorance. For all its problems at least you can control the main body of your presentation — during questions everyone can hear you scream.

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    These are some of the most reliable ways of dealing with questions that I’ve researched. found or observed…

    Know your subject

    Yes, yes, everyone says this but I still see presenters who think they can research just enough about a topic to be able to deliver the presentation in question and no more. I’m sure there are valid reasons for doing this, but I can’t think of any offhand.

    Take a break and go over your presentation with a fresh mind (or better yet, give it to a friend) and see what questions spring to mind. The advantage of using your friends is that they’ll have a clearer mind. I know its obvious but it’s a great way to figure out what you might be asked.

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    Buy the local newspaper and The Daily Mail (in the UK). Between them you should get a reasonable idea of what the burning issues are for the area you’re speaking in. You’ll be amazed at how often a member of the audience will find a way of asking a question which is relevant to both what you said and what their personal or local issue is. If you’re talking about exercise, someone will ask you about the proposed local swimming pool. If you’re talking about using social media, someone will ask you about the ‘horrible new proposed mast’ for the mobile phone network (and whether it’ll cause X, Y or Z in the neighbourhood).

    Have a Question Bank

    if you ever get asked a question you’ve not been asked before, note it down, decide on an answer and record that answer for next time. By the time you’ve given a presentation half a dozen times you’ll have covered most of the bases.

    Draw yourself a mind map of the the presentation — or better yet — draw one on the whole topic area that you’re speaking about. You’ll have the big idea in the middle, secondary ideas going off as ‘tier one’ and smaller issues going off those as ‘tier two’ and so on. Most questions come from the outer fringes of the mind map, so look carefully at those and prepare your answers.

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    Most people care about their own lives, not the big issues — or at least how they intersect. For example, if you’re talking about the advantages of online training over face-to-face training, questions are less likely to be about the cognitive/recall issues of electronic learning (which is perhaps a tier one issue) as they are to be about whether your training will be accessible on their particular browser (as though they’re the only person in the world using that browser) despite the fact that you may have been very clear in your presentation that your material can be delivered on any browser.

    Wrapping up

    So there you have it – the some great ways of predicting and handling questions, based upon years as a presentation skills trainer, researcher and so on… of course (and this is based upon personal experience!) there’s always the option you don’t know the answer! :)

    I know, I know…some of these are obvious. But they’re not so obvious that people do it! Others, such as the Daily Mail and the Mind Map, are techniques we’ve developed ourselves over the years and work for us.

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    And given that we’re professional presenters and trainers, we can’t afford to screw up…so they’re pretty thoroughly tested.

    (Photo credit: Many raised fingers in class at university via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on July 3, 2020

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

    1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

    Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

    2. Focus on your breath

    Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

    3. Get organized and purge old items

    A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

    4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

    Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

    5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

    Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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    6. Smile more

    Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

    7. Don’t worry about the future

    As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

    8. Eat real food

    The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

    9. Choose being happy over being right

    Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

    10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

    Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

    11. Make use of filtering features on social media

    You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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    12. Get comfortable with silence

    When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

    13. Listen to understand, not to respond

    So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

    14. Put your troubles in a bubble

    Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

    15. Speak more slowly

    Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

    16. Don’t procrastinate

    Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

    17. Buy a coloring book

    Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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    18. Prioritize yourself

    You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

    19. Forgive others

    Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

    20. Check your expectations

    Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

    21. Engage in active play

    Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

    22. Stop criticizing yourself

    The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

    23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

    Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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    24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

    Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

    25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

    Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

    26. Manage your money

    Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

    27. Stop trying to control everything

    Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

    28. Practice affirmations

    Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

    29. Get up before sunrise

    Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

    30. Be yourself

    Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

    Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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