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Marketing / Presentation skills

The dreaded Q&A: How to think on your feet

Imagine you've just given a great presentation where you've covered all of your key points. But wait, there's more! Most presentations end with a question and answer session. Are you ready to think on your feet?

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Naturally enough, we want the audience to remember us in a positive way so it’s important to be able to present well while answering questions.

During your presentation preparation it’s important to think about the types of questions that you may be asked. Consider the following:

  • Why is this audience listening to the presentation?
  • Have I addressed their needs?
  • Have I made any statements without backing them with proof?
  • Is the presentation logical?

Check through your presentation to ensure that these questions have been addressed. Looking at your presentation from your audience’s perspective and thinking about the types of questions that they may ask will assist in planning your answers.

Even with the best of preparation there may be some questions that come your way which you don’t expect.

If you do not know the answer, do not be afraid to say so as it’s perfectly acceptable to say that you’ll get back to the person with the details. This is better than trying to fake it or making something up – do this and you’ll lose your credibility.

"If you do not know the answer, do not be afraid to say so as it's perfectly acceptable to say that you'll get back to the person with the details."

That said you will want to avoid answering all of the questions with an “I don’t know” answer. It may end your presentation quickly however it will also detract from all of the valuable points that you’ve made.

Want more articles like this? Check out the  presentation skills section.

How to construct answers in a logical way when you think on your feet

Even though you know your subject matter, it can be challenging to construct an answer in a clear and logical format at a moment’s notice. You want to end your presentation on an upbeat note with your audience walking away with information that they can use.

Firstly, repeat the question. This ensures that you have correctly understood the question. It also gives you a few seconds to think about how you’ll answer the question.

Use the acronym PREP to assist in structuring your answer.

Point of view
Reason
Example
Point of view

How does PREP work in a presentation?

Mentally go through the structure of PREP while answering the question.

Point of view

Make a clear statement providing an answer to the question (your point of view).

Reason

Provide a reason to support your answer. Refer to key points from your presentation where applicable.

Example

Provide an example to highlight what you’re saying.

Point of view

End with your original statement answering the question. By recapping with your point of view you are reinforcing the key point(s).

PREP provides a structure for you to confidently think on your feet and field the various questions that could come your way. It allows you to provide a constructive answer in a short period of time. By using PREP, you’re also able to reinforce your expertise in your area.

PREP can be practised prior to any presentation, try it out at home or socially. Have friends or family ask you questions and follow the acronym. It’s amazing how quickly you can think on your feet.

Maria Pantalone

works with individuals and teams in developing their business communication skills. Her company, Infinite Growth, provides training in presentation skills, business writing and leadership development. Armed with these skills, there is nothing a business person cannot achieve.

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