May 31, 2005 Present Like A Pro Newsletter
Inspiring You to Discover, Develop, & Delight in Your Strengths
Welcome fellow speaker! This weekly newsletter from Present Like A Pro is here to provide you with on-going tips and inspiration as you develop your skills as a speaker. Every issue includes practical tools that you can use in your very next presentation.

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This edition: 1,216 words; 2-3 minute read

Any Questions?
by Sara Schaffer   3 Ways to Ask & Answer Questions Effectively
Do you frequently ask and/or answer questions within your presentations? Do you know how to handle questions so that they add to instead of distract from your message? How do you manage interruptions that are tangential to your talk?

Unless you are in the position of doing a keynote or a sermon, you most likely will find yourself contending with inquiries from your audience. In any type of talk, you may use questions as a way to get your audience involved in your presentation. Here are 3 ways to ask and answer questions so you Present Like A Pro!

First, reiterate the question. A gentleman recently reminded me that when a question arises from the audience, it is important to restate it. This gives everyone in the room a chance to hear the question while giving you time to formulate a response. It also insures that you understood the question properly and will give an appropriate answer.

Secondly, don't let questions distract from your talk. People in your group may ask a well- meaning question that is entirely irrelevant to your topic and everyone else in the room. Be ready to first reiterate the question and then give a brief and polite reply. Then, quickly get back to the subject at hand. At times tangents may prove to be beneficial, but in general, stay focused on the main message so everyone can profit from your presentation. You can always follow up with an individual later.

Lastly, create your questions ahead of time. Prepare your questions so they are clear. Practice them aloud to make sure they don't sound rhetorical. Decide if you are going to incorporate yes/no or short answer inquiries and how you will have your audience respond. For the former, simply cue them to reply by raising your hand. If you choose the latter, give people time to talk either to the group as a whole or to someone sitting next to them.


Do you ask effective, thought-provoking questions in your talks? Do you handle distractions and tangents well during your demonstrations? Working with a Presentation Coach will immediately add power and impact to your presentations. Contact Sara for more information at 303.439.4014 or


If you notice that you are starting to lose an audience, ask a non-rhetorical question to quickly and easily get people re-engaged. For a longer talk, it may be helpful to have several optional questions ready ahead of time for this very purpose.

When you are answering questions, reiterate them and always keep your focus on the main message. If you're the one doing the asking, create clear questions along with a method for your audience to respond. This will insure the most impact and meaning from your inquiries. When you incorporate effective questions and answers into your talk, then you Present Like A Pro!

I Thought You'd Never Ask!
  3 Types of Questions to Ask Your Audience
When I met with a group of grad students last week, I started my presentation with the question Is anyone here a Seinfeld fan? A few people hesitantly raised their hands. So then I asked, Has everyone here heard of Seinfeld? Everyone responded, laughed and relaxed a bit.

A classic way to begin a talk is with a question. Unfortunately, doing so may or may not be effective. I had a colleague who once spoke to a group of 100 plus people. She opened with a question, and when everyone responded with blank stares, she was unnerved and unsure of how to continue. Here are some tips to asking questions and handling any awkward silences that may follow.

1) Yes or No Questions. To get people involved without breaking the momentum of your talk, ask a simple yes or no question. Cue people to reply with a hand raise by holding up your hand when you finish the question. Or, have everyone "Say yes" if that's their answer. Give them a way to reply, and make sure the question is clear.

2) Discussion Questions. At some point, you may want to involve your listeners with a discussion question. For example, ask what idea you shared has been most interesting to them so far. Then, have them turn to someone and share their response. You can do several questions this way to get people in the group to interact. Another benefit is that everyone, no matter what size of the group, will get a chance to both speak and be heard. Once your listeners have formulated their answers, you can bring the group back together and ask for volunteers to give their responses to the whole group.

3) Rhetorical Questions. This last category can be very powerful, especially at the end of an inspirational message. Call your audience to action with compelling, thought-provoking questions. Help them to personalize your message by making an inquiry to them.

Be ready for no one to answer if you do either yes/no or discussion questions. In other words, have a back up plan if you are met with silence. If no one had responded to my two Seinfeld questions, I was ready to tell them that they all needed to get out more! Have a simple response ready, and don't let your listeners response (or lack thereof) unnerve you. They may just sit up or laugh when you least expect it!

Overall, asking questions is a terrific tool to engage an audience, reinforce your message, and challenge your listeners to action. To be most effective, be prepared. Think through or write out your questions ahead of time. Be ready for what you'll say if no one responds. Your audience will be grateful that you took time to find out what they think. Ask questions, and you'll Present Like A Pro!

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