Handling Q&A During a Phone Presentation

It’s important to be prepared for questions when you are giving a phone presentation.  Think of questions as a key element of your presentation rather than just an add-on or afterthought. 

Think about what you would hate to be asked and have a response for it.  It can be much harder to recover on the phone when you get a question you aren’t prepared for because the audience can’t see you nodding, smiling, listening to the question and thinking of a response.  They just hear a long silence.

Have an answer for when you don’t have an answer
If, despite your practice and preparation, you get a question that you have no answer to, what will you say? What you don’t want to say is, “ah, um, well…um, well…okay, let me think about that. You know, I suppose we could…”  That kind of non-response will undermine your creditably.  Instead, you need a stock answer ready to go for those moments when you don’t have an answer. 

For example, “That’s an interesting question. I’m really glad you brought that up. I don’t have a clear answer at this point. I want to give that some more thought and do a little bit of research. Let me check on that and I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”  Or, you could say something like, “That’s something we hadn’t considered as part of our analysis. I can see how that definitely would need to be considered and we’ll certainly look into that before we go into a full launch for this product.”

And here is where giving a presentation over the phone gives you an advantage. You can have your desk full of notes and potential answers and no one will know. Provided you can access them easily without doing a lot of paper shuffling, you can have extra information right in front of you.

What to do if there are no questions
What should you do if you ask for questions and all you hear is a big silence? First of all, rather than asking, “are there any questions?” ask, “what questions do you have?” It’s subtle, but the shift in wording assumes that there are questions. 

Secondly, it can be more uncomfortable over the phone to have no questions, but don’t rush through the silence.  Don’t just ask for questions, hear the silence, get uncomfortable and move on. Give people a chance to think of a question, get ready to ask it, figure out how to un-mute the phone, make sure no one else is speaking and then ask it. And explain to the audience, “I’m going to give you a moment to un-mute your phone, that’s *6, and then ask a question.”

Thirdly, you can ask your own questions.  For example, say something like, “Often at this point I get asked…” or “when I was talking to a customer yesterday, he asked me…”

Don’t end with questions
Contrary to common practice, it’s not a good idea to end your presentation with questions because you are relinquishing control of the end of your presentation to the audience.  If you end with questions and there are none, you end with an uncomfortable silence. If you end with questions and you get a question that you can’t answer, you end with the awkwardness of your not having a response. Instead, break midway or near the end of your presentation, handle questions and answers, then finish your presentation and do a final conclusion. 
If you follow these strategies for preparing for questions for your phone presentation, you’ll be better equipped to give an effective, confident, successful presentation

For more help with phone presentations, check out Gilda's audio course, Virtual Presentations - How to Develop and Deliver an Effective Presentation Over the Phone http://www.gildabonanno.com/Pages/VirtualPresentationsRecordings.aspx

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