Prepare for questions or concerns; Issue #266 July 24, 2012

Presentation Tip: Prepare for questions or concerns

It would be rare for a business presentation to be given and have no questions from the audience during or after the presentation. I am not talking about keynote style presentations from the big stage, I am talking about the regular presentations we deliver in our offices and to clients. A presentation should be a conversation with the audience that includes questions being asked. In this article I want to look at how we can prepare for the questions the audience may have.

Even though you may think that your presentation will be crystal clear, don’t count on every audience member understanding everything you say. If you are presenting something that is not expected, or is controversial, you know that you will be getting questions from the audience. If you are asking for a decision, the audience will definitely be asking questions to make sure they are making the right decision. Questions are a part of every presentation and we need to plan for them.

In analyzing the audience during your planning for the presentation, take their viewpoint and think of what questions they may ask. This is sometimes difficult if you are too close to the topic of your presentation. You may need to ask a colleague to give you an outsider viewpoint. What concerns may someone raise about what you are presenting? These are also questions that can be anticipated.

Once you have a list of potential questions, develop answers for each one. Don’t make the mistake of including all the answers in your presentation. You aren’t even sure whether the questions will be asked. You may want to include the answers to the top two or three questions if you feel they will help make your message clearer. For the rest of the questions, decide whether you want to develop a backup slide to answer the question or perhaps even link to a source document if that would be the best way to answer the question.

If you decide to develop a backup slide, I suggest you make it a hidden slide and position it right after the slide in your presentation that may give rise to the question. A hidden slide is not shown in Slide Show mode unless you specifically request it, through a hyperlink or by using Ctrl+S in Slide Show mode. If the question does not get asked, you don’t have to access the hidden slide and the audience never sees it. By positioning it right after the slide that may give rise to the question, you make it easy to access if necessary during the presentation. Instead of searching for it in an Appendix at the end of your slides, you know that it is the next slide in the file. You jump to it, and can then proceed to the next slide seamlessly.

If you want to access a source file, such as a spreadsheet or document, create a hyperlink on the slide in your presentation that you think will cause the question. When you activate the hyperlink, the appropriate program will open on top of your slide show and the file will be displayed. You can have the discussion with the audience, and when you are done, simply close the program and you will continue with your slide show. If you don’t want the hyperlink to be visible, use a rectangle as the object that is hyperlinked and set the fill color and outline color to No Color. You can download a video on creating hyperlinks to source files from my Free Resources area here (it is the second video in the Other Content category)

Questions are a good and valuable part of a presentation because they engage the audience in what you are saying. Use these ideas to plan for questions and prepare answers that demonstrate your expertise in the topic and presenting effectively.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.