What to Avoid in Answers to Innovative Presentation Questions

By Ray Anthony, Barbara Boyd

When it comes to answering questions from your innovative presentations, there are good and bad answers. There are some faulty — albeit common — ways that presenters answer questions that you should try your best to avoid:

  • Switcharoo: Politicians are notorious for ignoring the true nature of someone’s question and instead giving a predetermined answer that does not fit the question. Audiences see this as a devious trick unless an exceptionally adept and smooth transition is used to go from a real answer to an add-on response.

  • Mini-filibuster: An unnecessarily lengthy response comes across as rambling and will frustrate your group. Keep your answer concise and tightly focused. An economy of words is best.

  • Defensive bluster: Never let anyone knock you off balance and goad you into shooting back to someone who has sharply disagreed with you, put you on the spot, or even attacked your presentation points. A tit-for-tat aggressive or defensive reply will detract from your professionalism and poise. A calm, dignified, and composed reply will win you major points with your group.

  • Winging it or faking it: The euphemism may be improvising, but, let’s face it, winging it is for the birds! The worst thing you can do is to provide an answer that you either don’t have the real information for or that you simply make up. If you get caught in that unfortunate case, you will be seen as disingenuous and perhaps unethical.

    When you say something without sufficient forethought, preparation, or adequate knowledge, it lacks accuracy and believability, and it gouges a big chip in the credibility you built so carefully up to that point in your presentation. Your entire presentation is put in serious jeopardy with one unconsidered answer.

  • Ending on a question: You want to avoid the Flapping Swan conclusion in which, after answering the last question from an audience, you lift up your arms (like wings) and let them fall to your sides saying, “Ah… I guess that’s it. Thanks.”

    Instead, conclude with a strong final thought, “My speech today was about being an innovative leader. With more innovative leaders in your company, your revenues and profits will continuously grow. You will have an organization filled with excitement, promise, and challenge. Implement the proven techniques I gave you today to have a company of innovators and innovative leaders. I wish all of you great success in the future!”

  • Spinning: In today’s world of influence and persuasion, the spin is (unfortunately) in. Spinning is the art of constructing a favorable answer out of an unfavorable situation. Some call that the right answer, even if it twists and bends the truth.

    However, audiences respect and trust a presenter who answers honestly, candidly, and forthrightly even at the expense of disapproval or criticism. More times than not, the real answers dramatically elevate the credibility and respect of the presenter. An honest presenter who shuns any hint of an underhanded manipulation of the truth or a slick answer actually has a greater chance of meeting his goals.

  • Praising the question: Sometimes it’s tempting to compliment an audience member with, “That’s a great question!” or “I’m glad you asked that.” However, if other people ask questions and you don’t praise them, they may feel as if you did not especially value their questions.

    Also, if you praise everyone’s inquiries, you come across as insincere or perhaps patronizing. If someone asks a tough, but sincere (not loaded or hostile) question, you might say, “Thanks for asking that question” which will show you are unfazed, have class, and are open and receptive to difficult, yet valid, inquiries. Obviously, don’t thank someone who asks a hostile or loaded question.