Should I Answer the Question?

More trouble is caused in the world by indiscreet answers than by indiscreet questions”  – Sydney Harris.


Listening to politicians, sports people and executives being interviewed on the radio this morning, it seems that no-one wants to answer a question.  In the everyday business world life isn’t always so easy.  If you’re giving a presentation and you allow time for questions and answers, it’s always good to have thought through some approaches.

Here’s some presentation question tips from the archive …

Prepare for questions:

  •  Anticipate the most likely questions.
  • Prepare suitable answers – including visual aids or specific examples specially for answering questions.

 Repeat the question back

  • Ensures everyone has heard it.
  • Confirm wording of question – especially if it is complex or multiple.
  • Provides thinking time to formulate answer.

 Maintain your style

  •  A change in your demeanour indicates that you are ‘off balance’ and may encourage a negative response.


 Questions you don’t know the answer to…

  • Don’t bluff – admit you don’t.
  • Promise to find out the answer.
  • Keep your promise.
  1. Involve the whole audience in your answers, involve them in the problem.
  2. If your mind goes blank – open question to the rest of the audience giving you thinking time and involving group.
  3. Don’t get bogged down answering irrelevant questions – offer to discuss it with the individual afterwards.  Stay on course, and don’t be led astray.
  4. Maintain a confident approach to keep control of the session – you can answer the question with another question.
  5. Break the question down into one you can anser, “did you mean x or y?”
  6. Make it bigger “actually this affects the whole industry, not just this aspect .
  7. Focus much tighter “I can’t speak for this entire aspect – let me comment on how it affects our situation …”
  8. You may need to cut people off if they ramble, be kind but direct, “Forgive me for interrupting …
  9. Ask for their help “I know this is an emotional subject, but I can help more effectively if your questions are kept on topic” – addressed to all.
  10. Always acknowledge the question.