Maintain control of your presentation when you answer questions. Adopt these practices:
- Restate every question. Whether the person began speaking before reaching the microphone or rambled on, when you say the question everyone will hear and understand it. That also allows you to check whether you understood the person and to gain a few more moments to formulate your answer.
- Be patient, within reason. Don’t rush to answer before the person finishes speaking, but also don’t allow people to pontificate and run on. If you can leave the stage, go stand beside the person posing the question and face the same direction. Most people will then stop talking. For those who continue to ramble, jump in when they pause to take a breath. Say “Let me answer the first point …”
- Acknowledge the emotion. Respond to more than the words. Show that you understand the audience by pointing out what you observe. “You seem to be very frustrated by …”
- Wrap up subtly. If you ask “Anything else?” you may receive one more question. If you want to continue answering the audience, ask “What else?”
— Adapted from “5 Quick Tips to Handle Q and A Successfully,” Nick Morgan, Public Words, http://publicwords.typepad.com.