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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 October 22, 2019

    How to Get “I Can’t Do It” Out of Your Vocabulary

    How to Get “I Can’t Do It” Out of Your Vocabulary

    When someone says, “I can’t do it” . . . I say to myself, “What do you mean you can’t do it?” Maybe you don’t want to do it, but saying you “can’t” do it is a completely different story.

    With the right mindset, positive attitude, and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, the only thing that is holding you back is yourself.

    Can’t is a terrible word and it has to be taken out of your vocabulary.

    By saying you can’t do something, you’re already doubting yourself, submitting to defeat, and you’re making that barrier around your life tighter.

    So today, right now, we are going to remove this word for good.

    From now on there is nothing we can’t do.

    “Attitude is Tattoo”

    Your attitude is everything; it’s your reason, your why and how, your facial expression, emotions, body language, and potentially the end result. How you approach an opportunity, and the result of it, is solely based on you — not your boss or your co-worker or friend.

    If you enter a business meeting with a sour attitude, that negative energy can spread like wildfire. People can also feel it — maybe even taste it. This is not an impression you want to leave.

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    Now imagine you enter a business meeting with a positive attitude, that whatever happens in here is going to be your result, in your control, not someone else’s. Of course, we can’t always win, but even if the outcome is negative, your attitude and perception can turn it into a positive. The question is: can you do it?

    Of course you can, because there is nothing in this world you can’t do.

    It’s much better to be known for your positive attitude — your poise, your energy, the reason why things go so well because you are able to maintain such character. A negative attitude is easy. It’s easy to complain, it’s easy to be mad, and it’s even easier to do nothing to change it.

    When I say your “attitude is tattoo”, it sounds permanent. Tattoos can be removed, but that’s not the point. Your attitude is like a tattoo because you wear it. People can see it and sometimes, they will judge you on it. If you maintain a negative attitude, then it is permanent until you change it.

    Change your attitude and I guarantee the results change as well.

    Believe You Can Do It

    Do you know why most people say “can’t” and doubt themselves before trying anything?

    It’s our lack of self-confidence and fear on many different levels. The one thing we have to purge from ourselves is fear — fear of bad results, fear of change, fear of denial, fear of loss, the fear that makes us worry and lose sleep. Worrying is the same as going outside with an umbrella, waiting for rain to hit it. Stop worrying and move on.

    Confidence is fragile: It builds up slowly, but can shatter like glass. Project your confidence and energy into believing in yourself. This is a very important and groundbreaking step — one that is usually the hardest to take. Start telling yourself you can do something, anything, and you will do it the best to your ability. Remove doubt, remove fear, and stick with positive energy.

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    Embrace Failure

    Do not fear failure. Do not run away from it. Face it, learn from it, grow, and take action. Just remember: You will never know success if you have never failed.

    Your confidence will bolster after embracing these facts. You will be immune to demoralizing results, and instead you will find ways to fix it, improve upon it, and make it better than before. You will learn to never say “can’t,” and will realize how many more opportunities you can create by removing that one word.

    Don’t let one simple and ugly word plague your confidence. You’re better and stronger than that.

    Start Making the Change

    But to actually start the process of change is very challenging.

    Why is that?

    Fear? Time? Don’t know how — or where — to start?

    It’s hard because what we’re doing is unlearning what we know. We are used to doing things a certain way, and chances are we’ve been doing them for years.

    So here are some ways that I avoid using the word “can’t”, and actually take the steps to put forth the change that I wish to see. I hope you can incorporate these methods into your life.

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    Write down What You Want to Change

    Write it on post-its, notecards, whatever makes you comfortable — something you will always see. I usually write mine on post-its and put them all over the wall behind my monitor so I always see them.

    Tell a Friend and Talk About It

    Discussing your goals, what you want to change, is very effective when you say it out loud and tell another person other than yourself. It’s almost like saying, hey, I bet I can do it — watch me.

    When you fulfill that goal and tell your friend, it feels rewarding and will motivate you to do it again in a different aspect. Who knows? Maybe your friend adopts the same mindset as you.

    Stop Yourself from Saying the Forbidden Word

    Sometimes,I can’t control myself in public when I’m with friends, so I have to be careful with the words I use so I don’t embarrass or insult anyone.

    Treat the word “can’t” as the worst word you can possibly use. Stop yourself from saying it, mid-sentence if you must, and turn your whole perspective around — you can do it, you will do it, and nothing is impossible!

    Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

    You think this change will be overnight? No way. This is a practice. Something you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life from now until forever.

    As I said earlier, you are unlearning what you know. You know how easy it is to say you can’t do something, so by unlearning this easy practice, you’re self-disciplining yourself to live without boundaries.

    Practice this everyday, a little at a time, and before you know it, the word can’t will not be part of your language.

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    Do Anything That Can Relieve Your Uncertainty

    When I catch myself saying I can’t do something or I don’t know something, looking up information on that action or subject, doing research, educating yourself, relieves that uncertainty.

    Sometimes, we think we can’t do something because the whole idea of it seems too large. We skip the small steps in our head and only focus on the end.

    Before you say you can’t do something, rewind and slow down a little bit. Focus on what the first step is, then the next. Take it a step at a time, and before you know it you will have done something you previously thought you couldn’t do.

    Final Thoughts

    You know what you must do. The first step is right now. Once you begin this habit, and really start noticing some change, you’ll realize the door to opportunity is everywhere.

    The funny thing is: Those doors have always been there. The evil word that we no longer use put a veil over our eyes because that’s how powerful that word is.

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    Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

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