How to answer questions by thinking on your feet

The dreaded Q & A – How to think on your feet

Imagine you’ve just given a presentation where you’ve covered all of your key points. But wait, there’s more! Most presentations end with a question and answer session. Are you ready to think on your feet?

Naturally enough, we want the audience to remember us in a positive way so it’s important to think about the types of questions that you may be asked. Consider the following:

  • Why is this audience listening to the presentation?
  • Have I addressed their needs?
  • Have I made any statements without backing them with proof?
  • Is the presentation logical?

Check through your presentation to ensure that these questions have been addressed. Looking at your presentation from your audience’s perspective and thinking about the types of questions that they may ask will assist in planning your answers.

Even with the best of preparation there may be some questions that come your way which you don’t expect. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say so as it’s perfectly acceptable to say that you’ll get back to the person with the details. This is better than trying to fake it or making something up – do this and you’ll lose your credibility.

That said, you’ll want to avoid answering all of the questions with an ‘I don’t know’ answer. It may end your presentation quickly however it will also detract from all of the valuable points that you’ve made.

How to construct answers in a logical way while thinking on your feet

Even though you know your subject matter, it can be challenging to construct an answer in a clear and logical format at a moment’s notice. You want to end your presentation on an upbeat note with your audience walking away with information that they can use.

Firstly, repeat the question. This ensures that you have correctly understood the question. It also gives you a few seconds to think about how you’ll answer the question.

Use the acronym PREP to assist in structuring your answer.

PREP stands for:

Point of view

Reason

Example

Point of view

How does PREP work in a presentation?

Mentally go through the structure of PREP while answering the question.

Point of view

Make a clear statement providing an answer to the question (your point of view).

Reason

Provide a reason to support your answer. Refer to key points from your presentation where applicable.

Example

Provide an example to highlight what you’re saying.

Point of view

End with your original statement answering the question.

By recapping with your point of view you are reinforcing the key point(s).

PREP provides a structure for you to confidently think on your feet and field the various questions that could come your way. It allows you to provide a constructive answer in a short period of time.

By using PREP, you’re also able to reinforce your expertise in your area. PREP can be practised prior to any presentation – try it out at home or socially. Have friends or family ask you questions and follow the acronym. It’s amazing how quickly you can think on your feet.


Learn About This Author
Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone is the author of Success Talks: Conversations with Everyday Leaders. Maria works with individuals and teams to make communication their strength so that their message is heard. She provides tailored programs in presentation skills, business writing and effective communication as a leader and team member. Maria’s programs help her clients to excel in their role and be recognised as leaders in their field.

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