If you give enough presentations, it’s going to happen. Someone’s going to ask a question and you’re not going to know the answer.
Maybe you just need a moment to think about it. Or maybe you just have no clue what to say.
So what do you do?
Here’s what not to do. Don’t fake it! Your credibility with the audience can be lost in an instant if you are caught bluffing. Instead, you can do one of two things:
1. Palm the question off on the audience. Instead of blatantly admitting that you don’t know the answer, open the question up for the rest of the group and ask for input. Say something like, “You know, I’ve never thought about that before, does anyone here have an opinion about that?” But if you do this, don’t turn around and restate an audience member’s answers as your own. Your credibility is at stake!
2. Admit you don’t know (gasp!) and commit to finding an answer. During a workshop, someone once asked whether it was O.K. to make eye contact when speaking to Asian listeners (the questioner heard that Asians don’t like eye contact). Our coach said she didn’t know and committed to finding out. It turns out that some Asian cultures place less emphasis on eye contact than in America. But that didn’t mean that Asian listeners dislike eye contact. She emailed her findings to the questioner just as she had promised, which further added to her credibility with that person.
Joey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”