Making a Technical Presentation – Handle the Questions Professionally

You delivered your presentation to thunderous applause. You smiled in acknowledgement and with that smile still in place, you invite questions. Up shoots a hand followed by a booming voice, which asks: As wind turbines go, er, aah, can you tell me how a stator-rotor turbine cascade design can be used to more effectively extract energy from the flow?

Your smile freezes in place and you ask yourself who is this (you choose the word)? That was the whole crux of my presentation!

Here are some tips to help you handle the questions professionally.

1. In the scenario above, release your smile which by now has turned quite plastic. Resist the urge to be sarcastic (this is usually sooo hard for me!) and remember that someone once said: there’re no stupid questions only stupid answers. Now check out the tips below.

2. Anticipate questions and prepare for them. Rehearse your presentation before colleagues or friends and ask them for questions. This has the added benefit of allowing you to fill any pertinent gaps.

3. Clarify the question before you attempt to answer, repeating it in your own words if necessary. If you don’t know the answer, admit it, promise to find out and get back to the questioner and then find out and get back to the questioner.

4. Don’t be defensive. Have an attitude that communicates that you welcome questions and appreciate the opportunity to answer them. On your way home, in the car, with the windows rolled up and the doors locked…that’s another answer altogether!

5. Disarm loaded questions.They’re out there. Members of audiences whose sole purpose is to try to trip you up with a question based on false premises or baseless assumptions. Politely maintain your position. You may also ask the person to explain the question and share their information.

6. Divert irrelevant questions.These questions come from the sister of the brother at # 5 above. They are questions that are out of place and even if you know the answer, politely ask the person to explain how the question is relevant to the subject at hand.

7. Divide complex questions.These are the questions that may have three or more parts. Divide them up and answer each part individually. This helps you as well as the audience.

8. End the session by summarizing and thanking those who posed question.

So the next time you share some technical information with your audience, complete it by handling the Q & A session expertly. After all, you are the expert. Aren’t you?