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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Questions

By Joey Asher

Category: Q&A

Q&A may be the most important element of a presentation. It’s the chance you have to display your true expertise and respond to your listener’s key concerns.

Here are some common questions about questions.

1. What do I say if I don’t know the answer to a question?

Occasionally “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It reassures the listener that you’re going to shoot straight with them. Even better is to commit to finding out the answer and getting back to them. The best way to avoid too many “I don’t knows” is to spend time preparing by thinking of all the questions you might get, and then practicing answering them.

2. How do I get more questions?

You should establish a culture of questions for your presentation at the beginning. Tell people at the beginning of your presentation that you want lots of questions and that they should feel free to interrupt at any time. Then stop frequently and ask for questions.  And be careful not to discourage questions by saying things like “Please hold questions to the end.”  Every time someone interrupts, act excited for the question.

3. What’s the best way to answer a question?

The best way to answer a question is to keep it short. We recommend 15 to 30 seconds for an answer.  If they want to know more then they can ask another question. To keep your questions on point, take a piece of the question and use it as part of the answer. Let’s say that the question is “What is the biggest challenge on this project?” A good answer would start with “The biggest challenge on this project is . . . .”

4. Should I take questions at the end? Or throughout the presentation?

Take questions throughout. This creates a conversational atmosphere with your audience and ensures you’re talking about what matters most to them.

5. Is it ok to “add on” to my co-presenter’s answer if there’s something they could have said better or more clearly?

No! There’s no faster way to undermine your co-presenter’s credibility than to “pile on” to their answers. Let their answer be the answer and move on.

6. When someone asks a question, should I just respond to them? Or should I address the whole audience?

In the first sentence or two, answer the question by speaking directly to the person who asked it. If the answer calls for a bit of explanation beyond that, then address the entire audience.

7. How do I respond to someone who doesn’t really ask a question, they’re just angry or frustrated and using Q&A as a platform to vent?

Typically, people who do this just want their voice to be heard. In these “hostile” situations, it’s best to empathize and reassure. It may sound like this: “I can imagine that getting an incorrect invoice is incredibly frustrating, and I want you to know that we’re aware of the problem and have a team of programmers working to solve it.”

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Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, or on the web at

Joey Asher


Joey is the President of Speechworks, a communication and selling skills coaching firm. He has worked with thousands of professionals, helping them learn to communicate in a way that connects with clients and audiences. He is also the author of four books on communication skills: “15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations,” “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition,” “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers,” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.” He can be reached at 404-266-0888 or


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