How to fend off tricky questions in style

    Spotlight 5/2017
    Fragen nach einer Präsentation
    © monkeybusinessimages/
    Von Ken Taylor

    Jürgen K.: "How can I sound more professional?"

    Dear Ken

    I have to give presentations in English. For me, the most difficult part is the question-and-answer session at the end. If I do not know the answer to a question, I know that I should admit this. But is there anything else I can do to sound more professional?
    I would to appreciatezu schätzen wissenappreciate your advice.

    Jürgen K.


    Ken Taylor: "Sometimes you need some time to gather your thoughts."


    Dear Jürgen

    There are several things you can do when you do not know the answer to a question raised during a presentation:

    • You can promise to find out the answer to a factualSach-factual question and e-mail it to the questioner.

    • If you do this, ask if anyone else in the audience is interested in the answer, too. Then collect their business cards or e-mail addresses at the end of the session.

    • You can ask if someone else who is present knows the answer.

    • There may be someone in your audience who knows the answer and is prepared to share it — a colleague, for example.

    • You can ask the questioner for his or her opinion.

    • Often questioners know the answer to their own questions. They ask the questions to show their personal competence and are happy for the chance to do that by giving the answer.

    • Sometimes you do know the answer, but your mind has gone to go blank (ifml.)einen Hänger haben, 
den Faden verlierenblank. You need some time to gather your thoughts:

      • Ask the questioner to repeat or to rephraseumformulierenrephrase the question.

      • Repeat or rephrase the question yourself.

      • Put off the question until later. Say you will come back to it before the end.

    I agree that the question-and-answer session is often the most difficult part of a presentation. You can prepare exactly what you want to say in the presentation itself, but you cannot know which questions will be asked afterwards. Whatever questions are asked, try to speak freely and be spontaneous.
    Good luck with your next presentation.


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