Kantor column: Your answers may be the key to success

Columnist Jan Kantor

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Columnist Jan Kantor

You finally made it through your speech. You feel good about your presentation. But now comes the question-and-answer period, and there is that big heckler there to boot.

It is difficult to prepare for this important part of your presentation. But this is your opportunity to clarify or emphasize your points. Audiences usually remember longest what they heard last. They retain more when they participate in discussing or exploring a topic. A good question-and-answer period can make your presentation more memorable. So if at all possible, take a deep breath, and don't skip this part of your speech.

You can start preparing by asking yourself a list of the most difficult questions you can think of. Be tough on yourself. This will help you respond more positively and with greater ease.

During the question-and-answer time assume all questioners are friendly, (unless proven otherwise). Try to find as many areas of agreement as possible. Remember, opponents are often expressing their feelings, not attacking you. You want to try and have them come to your point of view, but keep in mind that some people who disagree with you, may actually have some good ideas.

Don't compete or disagree with questioners. Use only positive words. Make only positive comments. Maintain only a positive attitude and demeanor. Maintain eye contact with people in the audience who seem to be on your side. If you remain confident and in control of yourself you will gain everyone's respect.

Sometimes no matter how good your intentions, an audience can be trying. Take every opportunity to make positive points, turning negative questions to your advantage. Your main goal is to create harmony, not discord. Here are a few helpful tips to handle difficult situations successfully.

Never repeat a negative. Your audience will remember what is repeated, even though you may deny the point.

Be honest if you don't know the answer. Offer to get the information to the questioner, and do so. Once you have given your "I don't know" response, move on.

If you get "big mouth the heckler," stay with your point and reinforce it. Don't become "rattled."

Don't agree or debate with aggressive questioners. Simply say you appreciate their right to hold a different point of view.

Remove yourself as graciously as possible from a questioner who keeps pushing. You can say, "Thanks for sharing your views with me. Let me take some other questions now." Remembering not to mutter under your breath. Then look away and say "Next question please."

Don't use the word "but." Use "and" instead. The word "and" is more agreeable and prepares the questioner to be more receptive. The word "but" makes questioners defensive.

But no matter what questioners try to do, you are in charge. Nobody can make you angry or defensive unless you allow them. Keep your own pace, stay patient, and keep emphasizing the positive. Use each question to show you are courteous, cooperative, and willing to share your knowledge.

Jan Kantor is a Southwest Florida business consultant and executive coach. For more information, or to contact him regarding workplace solutions, his website is www.jankantor.com.

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