Want to Keep Your Presentation Alive? (or Short-Circuit Your Sullen Teenager?) Take Questions Throughout

I spent yesterday working with four clients who are frequently asked to give speeches. One of the (many) things we discussed was the value of having the audience ask questions all the way through the presentation.

Now if you’re tempted to stop reading because you think, “Well, I don’t give presentations so this doesn’t apply to me,” please note that I have found the same is true when you are having discussions with your kids and—sometimes—your partner.

Why is this?

In my experience, it’s because if you’ve said something your audience—or, let’s face it, your teenager—finds preposterous and they don’t have a chance to ask (or, in the case of your teenager, challenge) you about it, then they simply tune you out.

Game over.

So, what’s the best way to set yourself up for taking questions successfully?

Begin by stating your question policy at the outset of your presentation/conversation.

This might sound like, “I really enjoy taking questions throughout my presentation so if you are baffled or skeptical, please let me know.”

With that said, I recognize it can be hard to get the ball rolling. If this is the case for you I recommend the following two strategies:

  1. Plant a few questions. Once the audience sees that you are serious about answering questions, they generally get on board pretty quickly.
  2. Stop and say, “A question I’m usually asked around now is X.” Again, this reassures the audience that you are pleased about receiving questions.

If you are worried that getting questions throughout your presentation is going to throw you off, then I recommend beginning with, “I have left X amount of time at the end for questions, and since I know that it can be hard to ‘hear’ me if you have a question rattling around in your head please write your questions down as they occur and—if I haven’t answered them by the end of my presentation—I will happily do so then.”

In the (highly unlikely) event someone asks you a question you can’t answer, I recommend, “Because I want to be sure to give you the best answer possible, I’m going to look into that and get back to you.”

(Is anyone grumpy because you want to give the best answer possible?)

If someone seems as though they are longing to hijack your presentation, I gift you with, “Because time is short—and there’s quite a bit of ground left to cover—I’m going to ask you to find me after the presentation so we can get into this one-on-one.” (Please note: it’s not, “May I ask you to,” It’s “I’m going to ask you to,” It’s happening.)

With all my very best wishes to you for interactive, engaging questions—and answers.


If you’re in search of additional strategies for handling the obstreperous, take a look at, “How so? & Other Gambits to Keep You Out of Holiday Hot Water”