4.6 Any questions?
Once you have checked your listeners’ understanding of the topic you are delivering, you should show that you value their opinions. You can do this at the end of your presentation by inviting them to ask questions. You can use phrases like, ‘I would welcome any questions’, or ‘Does anyone have any questions?’
Answering questions is an important part of giving a talk. Your listeners’ response to the information you have given will be influenced by the way you handle their questions.
When someone asks a question, you should show that you are listening and respond carefully and respectfully. You have probably seen a speaker listen to a question while pacing up and down and not looking at the questioner. Perhaps you have heard a speaker cut off a question halfway through. This kind of response does not encourage listeners to clarify their understanding.
Activity 20 Encouraging your listeners to join in
Below is a list of conditions. Some encourage listeners to join in. Others make listeners feel uncomfortable or upset and discourage them from taking part. Decide whether each condition is positive or negative and drag it to the appropriate column.
Recognising what it’s like to be a member of an audience can help you to become a better speaker. There are things you can do to make listeners feel comfortable and to encourage them to ask questions. When someone asks a question, you should:
- look at them as they speak
- be aware of their body language, which may give clues about how they feel
- give them time to gather their thoughts
- listen to and acknowledge their own views.
- put them down
- give them a lecture or unwanted advice
- deny their opinion.
If you answer a question in the middle of your talk, you can use your cue cards to help you to pick up the thread again.
Here are some of the ways that you can deal with questions:
- Prepare for questions in advance. Think about questions that you may be asked and information that your listeners might want to know more about. You will probably be able to anticipate most of their questions. Practise answering them on your own or with a friend or colleague before the talk.
- Repeat the question for the whole audience if there is a chance that anyone did not hear it.
- Clarify the question if it’s complicated or in several parts, by checking your understanding. You can do this by restating the question in your own words:
‘Can I check that I have understood your question? You are wanting to know if the new IT system will affect the time we spend with customers?’
- Be honest! Don’t try to pretend you have an answer when you haven’t. It is far better to admit you don’t know and offer to find out the answer later.
In this section you have looked at:
- how to structure a presentation or talk
- how to use signposts and markers
- how to use cue cards
- how to check listeners’ understanding
- how to deal with questions from the audience.