How to make Question Time – your favourite time

Jane Sheffield
Lead Trainer & Owner
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For many years I dreaded question time during a presentation. I found Q & As to be stressful. It was the feeling of the unknown that I hated. What would I be asked? Would I be able to answer it?  Or maybe….I would be exposed as the imposter I was! But now, I must admit question time is my favourite time.

How could I go from hating it to rating it?  Is it down to my level of expertise? No, not really. Is it down to my age, and the fact I look older so can be taken more seriously? Nope, it’s not that either. It is simply down to my perception of what a question is.

I no longer view questions from my audience as a test, but rather as an opportunity for in-depth discussion. And what a change!

If you are someone who feels nervous and vulnerable at question time, it’s time to start reframing questions as your friends.

5 reasons why questions are your friends:

1. Questions allow real time for real discussion

Time spent in a room with others is valuable time, and the perfect opportunity for (relevant) discussion. If you just want your audience to digest what you are saying and have no response, maybe an email would be a more effective way of distributing your message.

2. A question means they are listening, and they are interested

An audience that stares blanky at me and does not talk back is a disengaged audience. They are my challenge, not my goal.

3. Disagreement, challenge and objection are all imperative to making business decisions

I get it – someone challenging your ideas can feel uncomfortable. But it is important to remember that ideas SHOULD be challenged in a true democratic process. The key for you as a presenter is to accept this as part of the decision-making process, rather than seeing it as a personal attack.

4. When we answer questions, we get to talk

Answering questions is a time to be yourself. Getting up to present in front of an audience of 20 is stressful for most people. But talking one-on-one is something we all do every day. Use your question time as an opportunity to connect with just one person in the room. When we talk one-on-one, we feel and appear more comfortable, natural, and confident.

5. You can learn from other people in the room

A question-asker is looking for one thing – an answer. And that does not necessarily need to come from you. In fact, we have a saying at Effective Speaking:

If you want to know more than anyone else in the room – present to an empty room.

When you don’t know the answer to a question asked, it really is OK,  because chances are, someone else in the room will. 

Approaching questions as a test can often result in stressful feelings and defensive responses. Neither are helpful to you or your audience. (Read here for a strategy to keep your cool when feeling under attack).

Instead view questions as an opportunity for discussion, and you will not only feel more comfortable, but your sessions will offer more value.

Stop presenting. Start talking.


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