The Art Of Fielding Post-Presentation Questions

So you’ve managed to wing your way through that work presentation that’s been freaking you out for the past week, and now you think you’re home free. As a perfunctory courtesy, you ask your audience if there are any questions, hoping you’ll be allowed to shrink back into your seat. But if you’re not so lucky, you’ll be peppered with questions and need to keep your composure while forced to speak off the cuff. has advice for hurdling follow-up questions like a pro. Recommendations include making sure to thoroughly learn your subject in advance rather than simply prepare a speech.

When you’re practicing, you can try to anticipate questions and possible responses. A good way to do this is to give your talk to friends and have them try to throw you off with queries afterward.

If you’re stumped, don’t try to pretend you know something you don’t. You can sidestep and talk about something else or just admit you’re stumped and move on.

How to Avoid Panic in Presentations: Coping with Questions []


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bugley says:

    Consumer issue?

  2. OSAM says:

    Also known as common sense.

    Know your material? That’s what they came up with? What is this, grade school?

  3. Don't Bother says:

    A good way to do this is to give your talk to friends and have them try to throw you off with queries afterward.

    Right after you trick them into cleaning your house.

  4. rpm773 says:

    If you’re stumped, don’t try to pretend you know something you don’t. You can sidestep and talk about something else or just admit you’re stumped and move on.

    Or, just say something like “This press conference is over”, and storm away from the podium in a huff.

  5. humphrmi says:

    If you get the chance, see Damian Conway’s Presentation Aikido.

    (He gives the talk at other events besides OSCON…)

  6. katarzyna says:

    “Let me check on that and I’ll get back to you.”

    • DariusC says:

      Better than the article itself. Just tell them you will get back to them later and get their contact info. Problem solved.

  7. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Answer each question with a three-hour tangent about your dog’s balls.

  8. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    1: Plant questions. If there’s something you want to make sure everyone understands, plan in advance to have someone ask you a question about that subject, so you can go over it again.

    2: If you don’t know an answer, let the person know that you’ll look into it AND FOLLOW UP LATER. Seriously, it’s totally cool to write their name down and reach out to them later once you’ve had time to look over your answer. They’ll appreciate the personal contact too.

    3: If your presentation is recorded as an audio file with the powerpoint, see if you can update it with new information or with a “frequently-asked-questions” slide at the end.

    4: During the presentation itself, avoid jargon and acronyms. Even if your audience is all in the same business, they might use different terms for the same thing. If you use a term someone doesn’t understand, and they don’t find out until your presentation is over that “Yeah, PNB is the same as OJB” they’ll still feel confused about the entire thing.

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      Clearly you should’ve written the article

      • pop top says:

        Yeah, those tips are much more helpful.

        • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

          I do conference calls for a living. The technical aspect, not the presenting. I’ve run into plenty of awful calls. And good ones too, and I tend to pay juste enough attention to have a nice list of things people should and should not do.

          Also? Idioms. Get rid of them. One or two might help, but if your entire presentation is “Buzzword catchphrase, personal story, adage, catchphrase, line from popular song, famous quote, buzzword,” … ugh. Nobody likes you.

    • jenesaisrien says:

      yes,agreed.Also if you know the audience fairly well, exact a “NO questions afterwards”agreement- all get up and pack things to leave briskly while conversing loudly,someone get up and make an announcement of something- agreemnt, it will get everyone out of the meeting /work earlier,it’s in their best interest.

  9. Swins says:

    I think this website continues to lose focus at an ever increasing pace.

    Dumb OP’s that do stupid things somehow are now a consumer “issue”

    Life advice about things not related to consumer issues.

    What’s next dating tips and DIY toothpaste recipes ? Ohhh wait never mind.

    • who? says:

      At least DIY toothpaste has something to do with consumers. This? I can’t find any angle where this might be considered a consumer issue.

  10. Torchwood says:

    Here is where I would recommend a good Toastmasters club where you learn both communication and leadership skills. It is not that expensive, and you meet great people.

  11. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Firstly, yes, don’t ever try to fake your way through something. If you don’t know, just say “You know I’m not sure – I’ll follow up on that.” And then actually follow up on it.

    What can be handy is to have a whiteboard or whatever where you can write down questions that need yet to be answered…so if a question like that comes up, you just say “Let me put that on the board…” and then you can move on without sweating in front of your audience. At the end of the day, jot down all those questions, find all the answers, then email them out to the whole group.

    You’ll maintain your credibility during the presentation, and people will be impressed with the fact that you actually did something you said you were going to do.

    • BuriedCaesar says:

      This. Absolutely this. Unless you can answer the question right away in a quick, precise manner that satisfies those gathered – and hopefully doesn’t generate any follow-up questions – but those could just go on the board…!

  12. 85% Real 15% Filler says:

    Just lipsync it and if there are follow up questions pull off some killer dance moves on your way out the door.

  13. ahecht says:

    Okay, seriously, this is getting ridiculous. This is The Consumerist, not The Businessman. 9 out of Phil’s last 10 articles have been rehashing dubious self-help tips from random blogs. Phil: this isn’t an advice column, stop posting random tips. How is this “shoppers bite back”?

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      Ehhh I think tip articles can be helpful, just not this one. The content and subject both leave a lot to be desired.

  14. BurtReynolds says:

    “You can sidestep and talk about something else”

    Not if you want to keep your dignity. You are much better off just offering to exchange contact info and look into the question. Not only do you make a contact for future endeavors, but you don’t look like a fool rambling on about something off-topic.

    And of course, actually knowing your topic is helpful. If you aren’t a skilled BS’er, I don’t know why you would get stuck giving a presentation you know nothing about anyway.

  15. Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

    The inquiry would last four hours. Present were: two colonels from the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, two unidentified black suits (probably The Management), and French Chef Eric Ripert. The two anonymous men worried Sam; if they were who he suspected, some very dangerous and powerful people had their fingers in this pie. Eric Ripert was likely acting as a consultant, assisting with his knowledge of mustard and other condiments as used by the Nazi War Machine. Sam had a very difficult task ahead of him, trying to explain his actions, and why the Third Reich Mustard was now in the hands of the Spanish terrorist/sandwich expert code name ‘La Muerte Deliciosa’.

    The panel provided about an hour for Sam to make his case and lay out the events of the past week, starting with how it all began on that foggy pier in Maine. He detailed how he had gotten a strange phone call, a raspy yet seductive voice, asking him to meet for a possible job. He told them how he arrived at the wharf, only to find his mysterious caller dying from a gunshot to the chest. Her last words, ‘The mustard is on the move, you must find it’, still rang hauntingly in his head.

    He told them about the string of bodies and rye bread he discovered as he tracked leads, trying to find clues to who started all this. The panel listened intently as he told of the warehouse where he discovered the Nazi Mustard, and the explosion which rocked the building knocking him unconscious. And how, when he finally came to, he saw the plain white plate with a wedge of De Murcia al Vino, the calling card of La Muerta Deliciosa.

    The panel took all this information in, looking non-plussed. After a short break, the inquiry re-convened, and now it was time for Same to face the verbal firing squad…

  16. The Lone Gunman says:

    Geez–easiest thing in the world.

    Get hit by a question that you don’t have an immediate answer for? Throw it out to the attendees like this: “Good question! Who wants to give him an answer?”

    While you get one or two answers from the crowd, it gives you the opportunity to regroup mentally, plus you might even hear the answer that works–allowing you to look like a real motivator.

  17. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Just wave your hand at them and say, “These are not the droids you’re looking for…”