Imagine, you are on the spot after giving the best presentation you could give. Someone has countered your presentation with a question you never even considered. Blindsided, you get nervous, you sweat, your face gets hot, and you begin to stutter. You have no way to reply and you are afraid of how this will impact your overall appearance, credibility, and presentation. How do you cover yourself from this happening?
In your time as a young entrepreneur (or an entrepreneur in general), there will always be someone older, smarter, or more experienced than you. Additionally, there will be occasions when you are faced with giving a presentation that will undoubtedly end in a question and answer session. There will be three common situations you will face with each question. This article will cover what you should do or how to react to present yourself the best way possible.
The “I Know This!” situation:
For those questions where you have the answer just forgot to mention anything about it during the presentation, these questions are gold for you. They make you gleam with knowledge, excitement, passion, and insight. The best way to respond to a question where you know the entire accurate answer is to: be confident, explain the answer with detail and cite specific applications, sources, and methodology. If someone asks you, “Have you considered how you will handle complaints against your service, specifically, as a laundry service, what if I complain that you brought my clothing item back to me ripped and stained?” and you know the answer you may consider replying in such a way, “We have a method in place to handle such an occasion. Each time we process an order, we go through with the customer a detail report of the items we are receiving and the condition they are in, the customer then signs off on the document agreeing that the clothes are in the stated condition and will be returned in the exact same state. This releases us from liability.”
The “I Kinda Know This…” situation:
When you are hit with a question you’ve considered but not given great thought to, this will be the zone you fall into. It is slightly uncomfortable but you feel you can wiggle through it. The best way to navigate these questions during the question and answer portion of your presentation is to: breath first and collect your thoughts, explain what you have given thought to and how you might grow upon the process from there, then wrap up with explaining that it is currently an area you are working on and will be able to give a more detailed explanation in the near future. You may consider asking for input or advice while on the topic. In an example, the person asking might pose, “How will you make sure that the people working for you report all the earnings they make and don’t undercut you out of the process?” This is a great opportunity for a response that might go, “An excellent question, one that I’ve had many disucssions about and am still working on figuring out the best plan of action. In the current stage, all financial transaction will be operated through the company website and sales commissions will be issued on the second weekend of every month. There will be some room to work out kinks to ensure complete honesty by the salesperson but I am sure there will only be minor altercations. I would love to hear any feedback or thoughts you might have to make this process more air-tight.”
Employing this process where you explain what you know gives the impression that you are forward thinking and aware of possible issues. Starting off the sentence with a filler gives you time to collect your thoughts, and offering the person to give their thoughts on the subject makes way to establish future relationships, collect additional methods to solve your problem, and show that you are willing to listen to others.
The “I Don’t Know This!!!!” situation:
The DANGER ZONE! This are is where you can do your personal reputation and the presentation some real harm. In the case someone throws you such a question, there is one way you can do yourself the most good. By no means will you escape scott-free but you will at the least seem grateful for the question. For those questions that you have no answer for, follow this path: “That is a very difficult question to answer and something I don’t have enough information on to make an intelligent or thought-out point on. I appreciate you bringing it to my attention so that I can research more about it and find an answer. I would greatly benefit from your input on the topic if you already have a solution that might work.” In addition, if it is something you can swing to a personal conversation, you may say, “I would love to discuss this more one-on-one (or in private/personally).
The perks to approaching the answer in this process is that you are remaining honest with them, they will admire such a trait. By adding that you intend to research and find an answer makes the person posing the question feel as if you are taking their question seriously and in a way, they helped you. Asking for the input of this person is a valuable step, if someone asks a question, they may already have an answer in their head that they are expecting. Probing them for what is in their head can solve a problem for you before it even arises and the person posing the question will once again be happy that they got to chime in and make you stronger for your next presentation. The worst thing you could do in this danger zone is to lie and fib to get a loaded answer that will make you sound good at the risk of fumbling and ruining your credibility. If you cannot quickly give the already prepared and known answer, the audience will know you are making it up.
Keep in mind for your next presentation these three zones. Allocate each question mentally into each category and respond appropriately, it is better to ask for someone help then to continue walking in the dark and run into an unexpected trap. Opening up to feedback and thoughts from others increases your likability, engages support and future mentorship opportunities, and makes you to appear as if you are willing to listen to everyone no matter who they are and how you know them. Remember to speak loudly and clearly always to ensure everything you say is well interpreted as it should be, watch for your fidgets and bad habits that show your nerves and uncertainty, and avoid getting nervous when you fall into the danger zone, instead, ask for their input to make you stronger.