feature article

NO Questions - Toast of the Town or . . . Burnt Toast? by Trish Green
published Sales & Promotion Magazine December 2000 

Itís true, one thing every Q&A needs ó questions. If you make a big deal out of NO questions it seems like you have failed. Itís psychological. NO questions could mean you were so successful in communicating your message that there are NO questions (Toast of the Town). On the other hand, it could mean you have confused them so completely they do not know what to ask (Burnt Toast).

Effective Presenters Welcome Questions
Many presenters dread Q&A ó understandably so. Itís hard to control a situation when someone whoís having a bad day takes it out on you. Or perhaps some political animal is trying to look smart at your expense. Both situations happen, but donít let that prevent you from getting valuable feedback. Encourage questions from your audience if time or format permits, and be prepared to answer them.

Questions are a sign of your effectiveness. They provide an opportunity to:

Modify a Presentation to Suit Audience Needs
Respond by restating your main points using specific examples that apply to your audience.

Show Sensitivity In Handling Hostility

  • Listen carefully while the questioner vents. Paraphrase what they have just said, and how they feel about it, without being condescending

  • Ask probing questions to try to find out what the real issues are

  • Respond using one of the following statements:
      I know what your concerns are, now let me respond
      Letís problem solve together to work this out
      Letís look into this after this presentation has concluded

In using this approach you indicate that you value their thoughts and feelings. The audience will respect you, and you will diffuse the hostility at the same time.

Clarify a Point That Might Otherwise Remain Vague
Often we need to hear a point more than once to understand it. Sometimes it just needs to be re-phrased. Questions allow you that opportunity.

Gauge How Well You Present Your Material
Questions reflect how well your audience received your message. If we are repeatedly asked the same question, perhaps we need to re-think how we are presenting the material. Maybe it is not as clear as we thought or perhaps more information is required.

Getting Your Audience to Ask Questions
That awkward moment when we ask for questions and there are none makes everyone uncomfortable. Be patient, wait a few seconds while the audience is thinking. One of the most common errors in managing Q&A is to rush in too quickly. Many times our audience is barely aware the presentation is over and we are asking for questions. If you end with a powerful call to action, they may still be thinking about it.


  • Transition into Q&A by asking yourself a question before you open it up to the group

Before I take your questions, let me answer one of my most frequently asked questions 

  • Plant a question ó be sure it is with someone you can trust

  • Ask a question you were asked privately by an audience member

  • Solicit written questions in advance

  • Ask the audience a question ó involve the audience in a non-threatening way ó survey style, show of hands

How many of you think . . .

  • Offer to take questions privately, if topic is sensitive

  • Conclude with strength - transition from your final question into a strong closing remark. You can restate your main points, tell a story, share an appropriate quote, or use humor. Remember to leave your audience with a positive, lasting impression of your presentation.

Few presentations/meetings ever run without any questions. With adequate preparation and by maintaining professionalism, you can convert a difficult situation into an opportunity to build credibility. In preparation for your next presentation consider . . . how will I overcome NO Questions?

  ©2000Trish Green www.trishgreen.com a Toronto-based presentation skills specialist, public speaker, trainer, columnist and publisher t'greetings, an electronic newsletter for business presenters.

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