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presentation training Questioning techniques p18

Questions are a key element in presentations. They are a very good way of keeping attention, checking retention, and getting involvement and commitment.


Don’t Ask….

Trick questions – you will get no volunteers to answer further questions. Remember, questions are to find out what people know rather than what they don’t know.

Silly questions – you will get a silly answer to all future questions.

Yes of No questions – allowing people to give just “Yes” or “No” answers makes it too easy for them and does not achieve involvement.

Do Ask…

Questions of the whole group and then pick on somebody. Don’t let anyone switch off.

Pitch the question to everybody

Pause – let everybody think of the answer

Then Pounce on somebody

Questions to get the group involved. Some groups can be quiet, for whatever reason. Make people feel important. This then encourages others to participate.

Questions that will get answers from the group. Ownership in the answer normally leads to the retention of and commitment to the answer. Anyway, it is motivating to get the answer right.

Questions back to the group if there is a danger of getting too involved with one person. Turn it around to the questioner or another member of the group i.e.

“Thank you for that question – how would you handle it?” or

“That’s an interesting question, Jill. How can we tackle this problem in this situation?” (The Pitch), then (Pause) – “Jack?” (The Pounce).

“I don’t mind learning but I hate being told”



When people ask you questions, be disciplined in how you handle them. Try using TRACT.

Thank the questioner for the question. This gives confidence to future questioners.

Rephrase the question to show, or check, that you understood it. This allows everyone else to hear the question.

Answer the question – to the group, not just the questioner. You want the whole group to “own” the question – this gets everyone thinking and avoids getting involved too much on a one-to-one basis with the questioner. You could, of course, ask someone else for the answer.

Check with the questioner that you have answered to their satisfaction.

Thank them again for their question.


If you can’t answer the quotation – don’t be found out by bluffing. People respect others who can admit that they don’t know all the answer. Say you will find out afterwards. IF THIS HAPPENS YOU MUST DO IT.

You can also ask if anyone else in the group has the answer. Don’t do this to disguise the fact that you do not know the answer.

Two other situations to be careful of are:


If someone asks you a question on a point you will be covering later, say to the questioner:-

“Do you mind if I deal with that later – you will see the logic when I come to it”.

It is very rare for someone not to accept that answer. When you then come to that point, remind the questioner of their question. The fact that you remember will impress on the group how professional you are and how keen you are to ensure that they leave the presentation with all points covered.


It is vital that you do not show annoyance or cynicism when asked awkward or irrelevant questions. If you show a weakness, a difficult group could take advantage. Control the situation by saying:-

“Thanks , Jim. That’s an interesting point. May we chat about it afterwards as we do have rather a tight programme this morning. Let’s leave it to coffee break, OK?”

Or, if an argument is threatened, say:-

“Look, Jim, I don’t think we are going to agree on this one. As time is tight, this morning, we can continue our discussion during the coffee break?”

To ask the hard question is simple

W H Auden

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