The Chemist's Lesson – Handling Questions in Presentations

According to the chemist, he delivered a quality presentation. He was happy with the flow. He was confident during the presentation and he felt that he had reached his audience. He presented research that he had been working on for several years.

He finished presenting his last visual and the audience greeted him with a heart-warming applause. He confidently asked the audience if there were any questions and there were several. The first few he handled with no problem. The questions referred to the results of his research and were no problem for this expert.

The chemist then smiling, selected the next questioner. An audience member stood up and very firmly stated that based on the work and research of a fellow colleague, everything that the chemist presented was wrong. The chemist's face went blank, neutral and the chemist froze. He did not know what to say nor how to respond. He uttered some sounds but basically lost control. Unfortunately, the Chemist will remember that day of humiiation for the rest of his life.

Handling questions at the end of a presentation is one of the most vulnerable moments in a person's career. You know what you're going to present but you never know with total certainty what the audience might ask, a comment they make or how they may attack you. You must prepare! Here are some tips:

Expect the unexpected-sit down with some colleagues and have them present every issue they can think of. Write down the questions and your answers.

Rephrase the question prior to answering - Break visually from the questioner and rephrase the question. This technique has several benefits, the most important being that it provides you with thinking time.

Don't finish your answer looking into the eyes of the questioner- this is an automatic invitation for the questioner to ask you another question.

Good luck and feel free to share your experiences.