How to be successful during the questions and answers part of a public speech?


  Having to face judges during public presentations is absolutely normal, and currently it happens very often. Our understanding of the jury takes in consideration a post evaluation. The jury consists of a panel of evaluators: may they be university professors or other academic representatives, or also, in professional conferences and events, potential recruiters.

 However, we do not always consider that we are in front of a jury when we do not have a specific panel in the event where we do our presentation. If we stop to think about it, we are always being judged, whether if we have a defined jury or not. When we do a public speech, and that is why training in this field is so important, we are always being observed and analyzed.

The way we act in the question and answer phase has the power to elevate our public performance or to undermine it.

The concept of jury for most people is connected to a heaviness and seriousness that provoke a certain level of stress, especially when we are being judged in practical terms, may it be for a final master project, a dissertation or an interview with the media.

The jury is a set of people who evaluate our performance. When we do a public presentation, we have to remember of something that is extremely important: the entire audience is our jury, and they are extremely demanding.

In the end of a public speaking presentation, there is space for debating and/or questions and answers. This is where the fear comes, in case we do not have control or confidence over our emotions for this specific moment.

When reaching the end of a speech, questions arise. And these should be answered effectively, with confidence. This interaction stage between the public and the speaker are extremely important, as they can save the quality of an average presentation or reduce the credibility of a speech that has been, until that point, almost perfect.

We must always keep the focus on the question asked so as not to run away from it or unconsciously divert the topic.

I consider it to be excellent that questions do exist, as they show that the audience was focused on our presentation, and as such, doubts will arise. Having our audience presenting questions demonstrates interest and focuses.

By being open to answer questions from the audience, we will have the chance to:  

  • Apply our public speaking techniques;
  • Demonstrate that we can amplify our knowledge and adjust it to the questions that may arise;
  • Show our capability of adaptation and fast thinking;
  • Show how we react under pressure;
  • Improve our performance by demonstrating our dominance over the topic;

Answering effectively to questions after a great speech can be seen as an important part of our success as a whole. We wouldn´t be absolutely successful if we did not show a confident image when interacting with our judges as soon as we are being faced with questions. At this stage, it is also possible to verify if the message that we transmit, may it be through verbal or non-verbal communication, corresponds to what the public has perceived.

When speaking in public our focus should be on the audience and we should maintain a good attitude and interaction throughout.

The type of questions that may arise is vast and exclusive of the nature of the presentation itself and the audience who is assisting to our speech. We can find audiences that are very interactive and that want to participate and present doubts or audiences that are more introverted.

In many different times, we may have to deal with an audience, or a specific person that aims to upstage us, or undermine us. Whatever the situation is, the most important thing is to maintain the posture and respond exactly the same way as any other question.


Techniques to obtain success in the questions and answers stage

There are different techniques that we can and should apply when answering to questions, as they will help us to organize ourselves better during this stage. Initially, we should ideally demonstrate an open posture when being faced with the question. Not always does the audience interact a lot or even sometimes they do, but it becomes hard for someone to start. In this situation, we should always intervene, asking open questions such as: “Who is going to be the first to talk?” or “Let´s see who is the most brave and starts asking a question”. We should change the question “Any other questions?” to “Next Question” also demonstrates that we are relaxed with the potential questions that may arise.

At the end of the speech, at the question and answer stage, we should always make sure that we understand the question asked, so that we do not answer it wrongly.


Key points that will determine the success inn the final part of our presentation

Be concentrated on the question
We need to make sure that we understand the question properly in order to avoid answering something inadequate / not to the point.


Receiving the question
We should wait a few seconds before answering, that is, reflect about the question and think before answering. This pause demonstrates that we really are absorbing the question. In this stage, we can use some key phrases to gain time, such as “that is a very interesting question”; “Thank you for highlighting that important point”.

On the other hand, an immediate response does not give us time to. structure our thoughts, and to make it worse, makes it seem as if we are avoiding the point.


Non verbal communication
We should be aware of our non verbal communication – maintain the posture and avoid movements that show insecurity, stress, or anxiety. This includes: biting the nails, put the hand in the mouth, move too fast, and others.


Physical Support
Resort, if needed, to a support that we may have – if a person from the audience refers a specific slide of our presentation or a graphic, we can go back and show it again, and therefore we use strategies to sustain our answer.


Openness to the audience
As I have referred for the initial questions stage, also throughout it we should maintain open questions (which answer can not be yes/no/maybe). “Who else has doubts?!” instead of “anyone else has doubts?”
After our answer, we thank the member of the audience / jury for the question and we follow with a short sentence saying something like “I hope I have made this point more clear for you”. In this way, we are, in a certain way, giving back to the individuals the effort of formulating the question and actively intervening during our moment on stage.


Interpersonal receptivity

Showing the person that formulated the question that we are maintaining constant visual contact. If people have the interest of doing certain questions after our speech, that means they really feel valued being listened. And if we do not give them back the eye contact with confidence, we have the risk of giving an idea that we are avoiding them. This can, in a last instance, affect our general performance.

Maintaining eye contact with our audience is crucial throughout the public speech, essentially at this stage.

The attitude that we keep in this stage should be of proximity to the audience, to careless, and above all, of genuinely. These characteristics will help us to overcome the fear of public speaking and that we can, at this stage, improve our last presentation.

Sometimes, we are faced with audiences that do not create any connection with us, while with others we do have an immediate warm response that helps to deal with the potential stress of the moment. No matter the impression we have from whoever is judging us, keeping a smile is essential while we answer to the questions that arise!