“We’re going to hold all questions until the end of the presentation. If we have time, we’ll answer them then.”
It’s the generic statement many presenters make that audiences hate.
Why Presenters Use This Statement
Typically, the presenter’s goal is to cover as much content as possible. They have an agenda to cover. They fear that audience questions may take them on a rabbit trail which can be a time-waster…at least in their view.
Several other fears often cross their mind: What if someone asks a long-winded question? What if the question is off-topic? What if the question is a self-serving promotion? What if I don’t know the answer? What if I am going to cover that question later?
Presenters often believe that the more they can control what is said, the more the audience will learn. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
Your Brain Is Hungry For Meaning
The statement, “We’re going to hold all questions until the end of the presentation,” is the perfect way to create a buzz kill. It causes the audience to feel anxious, frustrated and stressed.
A better way is for the speaker to schedule several times during their presentation for Q & A. The best way is for the speaker to address questions as they arise.
Our brains crave meaning.
Learning is the process where our brains begin to recognize useful associations and connections with previously stored information.
Each time we discover a pattern from new information linked to past learning, we grow our brain’s perceptual map. And the brain feels a sense of relief from anxiety, confusion and stress that accompanies raw data. It actually feels a sense of elation when it learns something useful and new.
If you want to overwhelm the brain, keep it stuck on a pressing question. Then continue to throw a lot of raw data, facts and figures at it without any explanation. And make sure you keep the spigot of statistics and information coming without addressing the questions at hand. That will create a feeling of stress and frustration for sure.
If you want to engage the brain, answering a participant’s question may supply the missing link to strengthen understanding. Making the participant wait, or ignoring their question, ensures that they will continue to feel frustrated. And that their understanding is incomplete.
6 Steps To Better Questions And Questioning Strategies
Here are six presenter tips for questions and questioning.
- At the start of the presentation, the speaker should let the audience know his or her expectations regarding questions.
- The presenter should use whole-group questions which help audiences focus on common experiences.
Example: How many of you have had this happen…? This creates a bridge between the presenter and the audience.
- Schedule several designated times for Q & A during the presentation.
- Encourage the audience to raise their hands when they have a question.
- Avoid asking the audience witch-hunt questions that have only one specific answer.
The goal of asking the audience questions should not be to please the presenter. The goal is to increase learning and retention.
- Ask open-ended questions that participants can discuss with each other.
Then the participants invest more in the topic.
What are some presenter do or don’ts regarding questions that you would add to this list? How do you feel when a presenter ignores questions?