PSU Insight

Speak with Power and Passion

When and How to Handle Questions

Your presentation may generate questions from your audience. When you choose to handle questions can have a big impact on your presentation.

There are several good times to field questions effectively. They include:

  • during your presentation, whenever somebody thinks of a question. This is a terrific way to establish rapport with your audience, but on the other hand, your schedule and ‘flow’ of material can easily be disrupted. So this usually works best with small groups in a training session.

  • during your presentation, but at designated times that you choose. (“Before we go any further, are there any questions on ....?”) This enables you to answer questions while still maintaining control over your presentation.

  • after the ‘message’ but before the ‘wrap up’ and ‘finale’. (“Before I end, do you have any questions?”)

  • after your speech is over and you have left the "stage". (“I’ll be happy to answer your questions after the meeting....”) This works well when your speaking time is strictly enforced, or you want to maintain total control over your presentation..

Beginning speakers oftentimes offer to answer questions at the very end of their presentations. This is generally not effective for a simple (but important) reason — you lose whatever momentum you’ve established with your presentation! You had (I hope) a terrific closing, but the Q&A session is anticlimactic.

Since your conclusion should be powerful and memorable, you usually should not end with a Q&A session. That's why it's generally preferable to say something like "Before I close, I've got the time to handle a few questions...." Answer their questions, and then, when you've got just enough time remaining for your conclusion, say "Thank you for your questions. I need to finish up, so you can ask your other questions by.... (giving them a way to get the answers to their remaining questions)", and then moving into your dramatic conclusion!