Mastering Q & A

“I understand how to prepare for the presentation itself, but HOW do I prepare for the questions that follow?”

I get this question a lot.

Many of my clients feel shaky as soon as they enter the world of “impromptu speaking.” We can all relate to feeling vulnerable during the question and answer portion of a presentation or talk – especially when we aren’t sure what to expect from an audience.

The good news is that most questions are easy to answer. Most of your audience members want you to succeed, and their questions will reflect good will.

Once in a while a questioner won’t have your best interest at heart. He or she will ask questions that are meant to limit or restrict you in some way.

To prepare yourself for this, I recommend that you learn to recognize difficult questions and become familiar with strategies to handle them effectively.

Six Difficult Questions and Tips for Responding like a Pro:

Forced Choice Question: Example - “What is more important to you, integrity or profits?”

  • Never allow yourself to be restricted by an either/or choice. You don’t have to choose just one option, so feel free to say that both are important.

Hypothetical Question: Example - “If earnings fall by 6% or more, will you take action?”

  • Whenever a question starts with “assume” or “if,” you can refuse to speculate. Don’t get pulled into a question that you don’t want to answer.

Empty Chair Question: Example - “Can you tell us what will be done at the top to address this crisis?”

  • It’s best not to speak on behalf of anyone else unless you are a spokesperson. When asked to comment on the plans of others, it’s safer to make it clear that you are speaking from your own vantage point.

Leading Question (with a false preface): Example - "Since layoffs are inevitable, when will you be making the announcement?”

  • When the preface is false, recast the question. “If you are asking me whether or not layoffs are inevitable, the answer is no.” Don’t allow a false preface to go unchecked.

“Let’s Debate” Question: Example - “Did you know that recent research refutes your data?”

  • Never engage in a debate in front of an audience. Express confidence in your conclusions and move on.

Emotionally Charged Question: Example - “This plan sounds like another one of your crazy


  • Refrain from taking the bait. You don’t need to defend yourself. Stay calm, collected and restate your main points and transition to the next question.

Finally, if you remember nothing else, remember this: You are always in charge of the flow of the conversation, and this is especially true during Q & A.



#presentationskills #publicspeaking #QA #difficultquestions #leadingquestions #communicationstrategy

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