What to do when your presentation’s Q-and-A goes awry

Sometimes you have to redirect an off-topic question or evade a direct attack. Here’s how to keep your balance to stay on target and thrill the crowd.

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Two readers recently posed questions about what to do when your presentation veers off track because of audience questions.

Put another way: Is there any way to get the audience in line with your presentation? You’ll have to float like a butterfly, not sting like a bee. Here’s what they asked:

What are graceful ways to bring off-topic questions (sometimes relative, sometimes absolute) back to the body of the talk when Q-and-A veers off-course?

How do you handle the person who won’t stop interrupting, commenting and asking questions to an annoying degree (you can actually feel the audience bristling)? Every so often they pop up, and it can get disruptive.

Let me just say this: You want questions. They’re a sign the audience is engaged and expects you to have answers to issues important to them.

Managing questioners is important not just for staying focused on your topic, but also to create a level playing field for the entire audience. At the same time, shutting down questioners and refusing to engage won’t win you fans, which is why it’s crucial to find graceful ways to manage questioners.

As with any extemporaneous part of your presentation, however, some forethought and planning are vital to your success.

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