In theory, giving a perfect power point presentation is simple. In practice, however, giving a perfect talk is another story. Most people get nervous when they give presentations, though we’ve given some useful tips to deal with anxiety related to public speaking. A great talk will make use of methods that make information exciting, and we’ve given some tips on how to do that, too. So let’s say you’ve done everything you can to make your presentation as close as possible to an ideal talk in terms of great content, excellent design, and intriguing delivery. There’s still one thing you can’t control before the talk and that’s how your audience responds.
Question-and-answer time forces people to think on their feet and sometimes audience members can ask very difficult questions. So how do you deal with the unforeseen? What can you do to prepare yourself to answer questions when you don’t yet know what those questions are? Well, we’ve compiled a short list of tips to help you deal with difficult questions during your power point presentation.
Questions that stem from misunderstandings are usually an innocuous type of question. If the audience member misunderstood something you said, it’s often appropriate to return to the slide that caused the confusion. After the talk, of course, consider where that confusion came from so you can avoid it when you give talks in the future.
If you, as the speaker, can’t understand the question either because it’s highly technical or the audience member asking it has a way of speaking that’s hard to understand, it’s usually acceptable to suggest discussing the question privately after the talk. Oftentimes, that’s more appropriate than holding the rest of your audience hostage while you go into fine details of something highly technical, especially if it’s not directly related to the main point of your talk.
If you’re having trouble understanding the question because it was caused by something confusing in your talk, follow these steps:
Rephrase the question and see if that is, in fact, what the questioner meant. If it isn’t, ask them to repeat their question or phrase it differently.
Admit to not understanding what they said, if appropriate. This is almost always better than faking an understanding when you don’t understand the question.
Accept responsibility for any confusion. After all, it’s your talk so you have a responsibility to deliver information clearly and understand enough about your topic that you’ll be able to answer reasonable questions about it.
If, after you’re rephrased their question and they’ve tried a second time, there’s still a misunderstanding, suggest discussing it after the talk.
Sometimes you’ll encounter someone in your audience who either doesn’t want you to succeed or wants to seem smart in front of their peers. If you detect that you’re being heckled, one way of diffusing the situation is to indicate that you can see the other person obviously knows what they’re talking about. This can quell the desires of people who just want to seem smart at a meeting.
If, on the other hand, their goal is to prove you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s acceptable to ask them questions in return. For example, if someone says “I see you conclude from your data that the market has weakened. Obviously that’s not true so why do you think so?” in most circumstances it’s perfectly acceptable to respond with something like, “I made that conclusion because the data support that view. How would you interpret the data differently?” Showing that you’re willing to discuss alternative ideas is always a good thing, but if the questions add a lot of time to your talk, you might suggest taking the point up later in the interest of finishing your talk on time.