For most people giving a presentation is one of their greatest fears.

I suspect most people can handle this but what they really worry about is trying to think on the spot.

It could be an unexpected or difficult question.

Or a comment or interjection from the audience.

How to handle being put on the spot?

Here are some key strategies:

– Prepare 9 questions in advance

Sometimes a question comes from left-field but most times a key question can be anticipated in advance.

Spend 2 minutes trying to think of 9 questions that might be asked. Jot down a few points for each and bring this to the presentation.

Or visit our new Blitz Digital tool ( and you can run a quick Ideas Blitz with yourself before an important presentation an you can create both 9 new questions and some ways to address these (i.e. the start and enhance steps).

– Rephrase the question

Sometimes presenters get into trouble because they have not clearly understood the question. To overcome this situation ask for clarification and or rephrase the question it e.g. As I understand it you are asking me….

The other advantage is that it gives you a few moments for you to consider your reply.

– Ask others in the audience

Another favourite tactic is to acknowledge the question e.g. That is an interesting question, what do others think…

Again you broaden the potential answers and you involve the audience in a natural way.

– Answer the question

This sounds obvious but nothing is worse than a presenter who does not answer the question.

You may have a lot to say but if it is not relevant than don’t offer it.

– Trust your first response

If you know your subject area then your first response is often a good one.

Presenters and speakers often get into trouble when they second-guess themselves. I believe it is better to go with your first instinct.

– Admit when you don’t know

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know the answer to a question from an audience.

In fact, I like it when I cannot answer something — this is an opportunity for me to learn and to be better prepared next time.

– Practice your presentation in front of a friend

This is a good strategy to get more comfortable with your material.

But take it further and ask your friend for 9 questions about your presentation.

Again it will help you become better prepared, more confident and you can practise answering questions about your presentation.

– Attend other presentations of people you admire

How to handle questions in a presentation?

What can you adapt, learn or borrow from what they do?

Your ability to think on the spot is an important skill in your school, university and business life.

People rightly or wrongly form impressions on how you handle these situations.

The good news is that with practice we can all become better at presenting and answering those tricky questions.

In the end you will welcome rather than fear being put on the spot.

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