For many people who have to give presentations in English, the most nerve-wracking part is when they have to answer questions. The nervousness doesn’t come from the fear that they won’t know the answer, it comes from thinking that they won’t understand the question in English and will also have problems answering it in a grammatically correct way. At the end of the day, you can control the content of your presentation in terms of what YOU say, but you can’t control the questions the audience will ask you.
To face “question time” as confidently as possible, follow these tips:
- Deal with questions at the end of your presentation: this will make you feel more in control and will make sure you are not interrupted in the middle of your talk. For many non-native speakers it is hard to get back into the flow of their presentation once interrupted and if you have had difficulty in understanding a question this can dent your confidence
- Tell your audience you will deal with questions at the end: it goes without saying, if you have decided to take questions at the end, don’t forget to inform your audience! In all presentations it’s important that the audience know what is expected of them and when.
- Always acknowledge a question: When you are asked a question always acknowledge it by using phrases such as “that’s a good question” or that’s an interesting question”
- Ask for clarification of the question: whether you have not understood the English or indeed have understood the words but not the overall meaning of the question, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the person to repeat or explain the question; the phrases “I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch that” or “I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your question” are ideal. Note the use of the word “quite”. This is an excellent qualifier to soften your response and make it sound more polite.
- Reformulate questions to give yourself time to think and to make sure the
audience hears the question: Use a phrase such as “So what you are saying
is…” or “if I have understood you correctly you are asking me…”
- If you don’t know the answer, admit it: Say “I don’t have an answer
for you right now, but let me get back to you by tomorrow, is that OK?” Always check that your alternative to answering the question at that moment gets buy-in from the person by using the question tag, “is that OK?”
And always remember two things;
The audience want you to do well, they are on your side!
BELIEVE you can present in English with confidence and you will!