Eat questions for breakfast

When you think about questions during a pitch or presentation, how do you feel? Do you secretly hope there won’t be any? Are you disappointed when there aren’t any? Do you dread them? Or do you love them?

People often express concern about questions from their audience in pitches or presentations. At the same time, they also wonder about how well the presentation is going and what the audience is thinking. Questions during a pitch presentation are a bit like a ride on a rollercoaster. You want to look, and at the same time, cover your eyes.

How do you get comfortable with questions and enjoy the rollercoaster? First you open your eyes and ears. Then you look around. Finally, you let go of the handrail, fling your hands behind your head and laugh outrageously. Here’s how to do the first two.

Open your eyes and ears: In the lead up to the pitch, what do you say to yourself about questions? Is it, “What if they ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to?” What do see when you picture your pitch and questions? Is it a smooth road ahead for your presentation, with questions as pot-holes, uncomfortable sharp turns, ruts or no parking signs? What do you feel? Is it that you should know everything about your subject?

Look around: Start to manage your thoughts by getting into a conversation with yourself. When the voice in your head says “What if they ask me something I don’t know” or “I don’t know enough”, listen and then ask yourself, “Ok, what is it that I don’t know?” Then listen again. Just knowing what you don’t know, can be reassuring. You’re also giving yourself the chance to find out.

Ask yourself about this smooth road. “Is it real? Would I rather have a smooth road to nowhere or a rutted road that gets me exactly where I want to go?”

Ask yourself “This feeling that I should know everything about my subject. Who does? Will I ever? Is this a reasonable expectation?”

Simply acknowledging and responding will have a calming effect. And that’s the first stage. To go further you need to work on delivering your answers to questions. Then you’ll start to relax.

Prepare and practice right and you’ll be ready to let go of the handrail and laugh outrageously. That’s the next stage. Have a read of Five Tips for handling questions in presentations for how to get there.

Can I help you or your team with aspects of how you prepare and deliver in presentations? If you’d like to have a chat, do get in touch.

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