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June 15, 2008

Please leave your questions until the end...

When giving a speech, presentation or any other speaking occasion; always take questions during the body of the presentation - not when you finish.

It seems to be the norm to do things the other way around yet it never seems to work out.

When the question is asked the presenter normally has to flick back a couple of slides to get to where the questioner wants to talk about, many people actually forget that they even had a question - or they are just numbed to death by the presenter that they want it all to end.

Also - you have to think about the "big fish". Who's that? Thats the most senior ranking guy in the room. They have a habit of asking questions whenever they want to, and don't really care about the rules you have asked everyone else to abide by.

Then what do you do? ignore them? Tell them to wait and risk offending them? Answer them and send the clear message to everyone else that their questions are less important so they will have to wait.

So, to get around these potentially event ruining scenarios:
  • Always take questions during the presentation itself
  • Take the time to talk clearly and concisely in answer to every question,
  • If you don't know the answer then fess up, maybe write it down with their details and get back to them,
  • Keep control of the conversation, part of the art of presenting is in maintaining control over the room, so if it starts to wander into subjects off the beaten path, or over your time limits, then try to cut it short politely.
  • Make sure you have answered all questions prior to summing up, that way you can refocus everyone on the message and give it an uninterrupted boost at the end
And if all that has gone well then there should be no need to take questions at the end. Allowing you to sit down and exit gracefully.

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