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7 Tips to Handle Negative Questions in a Presentation


As a presenter, you must be prepared to address negative questions without showing signs of being flustered. Negative questions may arise during a Q&A session. In some cases, these types of questions may be introduced in the middle of a presentation, threatening your effectiveness.

Either way, confident public speakers navigate the heckles of audience members with ease, combating their question with conviction and confidence. Be unshakeable. Be a leader.

7 Tips to Handle Negative Questions

Your goal as the presenter is to remain the expert in the room. Don’t allow a heckler to tarnish your credibility with the audience.

Note: Ignoring negative questions is not a sure-fire option. It’s much easier to ignore Internet trolls that hide their real identities with fake accounts. Hecklers, meanwhile, are much braver. In fact, they may sit in the front row of the audience during your presentation.

Below are several strategies for addressing negative or difficult to answer questions during a speech.

Preparing for Negative Questions

Anticipate as many audience questions as possible. As a presenter, you must be prepared to respond to tough questions. Some questions may be negative. 

Set Ground Rules

Decide if you want audience members to raise their hands, yell out questions without being recognized or to wait until they are given a microphone. Better yet, you may prefer to answer questions at the end of the presentation.

Listen & Relax

Remain calm. Take your time comprehending negative questions. Feel free to repeat the question to the audience member, giving yourself more time to consider a suitable answer.

Don’t Dodge Negative Questions

Doing so will risk your credibility with the audience. Conversely, do not attack the questioner.

Defer Negative Questions When Possible

If the question falls outside of the presentation’s subject matter, kindly defer the question. Write down the question and offer to talk to the audience member after the presentation.

Change Your Gaze

If you do not want this person to ask a second question or follow-up question, turn your gaze to someone else before you finish answering the answer. This decreases the chances of the audience member in question asking another negative question.

Find Common Ground

Identify something within the negative question that you can agree with. Remember: You can’t solve decades-long issues in the time allotted for a presentation. What you can do is address smaller issues or motivate audience members to continue discussing an issue in their communities.

Never, Never…

Do not end your presentation by answering a negative question. Instead, answer an additional question or offer closing remarks.

How Do You Become a Dynamic Public Speaker?

The ability to present ideas in front of an audience is a vital skill in any profession. Presentations start with preparation and continue with improved communication and confidence.

Dale Carnegie of Orange County has the tools and techniques to help you improve your public speaking skills. Depending on your goals and budget, we have everything from free workshops to 8-week in-depth courses.

Learn more about our Free Workshops here.

Or follow this link to learn more about our Public Speaking Mastery course.

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